Agriculture provides the fundamental sustenance of life, and without it no human can survive. Agriculture impacts the food, health, economy, environment, technology, and well-being of all. By the year 2050, it is projected that the world’s population will reach 9 billion people, requiring agricultural production to double with less land and water, while sustaining the inhabitants of our planet. More food will need to be produced in the next 50 years than the past 10,000 years combined. The U.S. agricultural industry (all agricultural related sectors combined) produces about $992 billion toward Gross Domestic Product (GDP) annually, and approximately 21 million U.S. workers are employed in food and fiber industries. (USDA Economic Research Service).
Food supply and availability are beginning to fall behind. The issues with food production stem from a variety of factors: less land is available for farming, decreasing agricultural productivity, the high cost of agricultural investments, technology and inputs, and an increased demand for bio-fuels. Each year, food production around the world is becoming more and more of a challenge for those involved in producing our food. The world is expecting a food crisis in the future, so much that the World Bank and the United Nations predict that by 2050, there may not be enough food to feed the world’s population with the current technology being used and farming methods in place today.
In order to feed the growing population, investments in agriculture are needed to keep up with the growing demand of consumption. Farms, often considered family businesses, are evolving and changing the way we once experienced agriculture. For example, the average farmer in America is in his or her late 50’s and does not have a successor stepping up to take over. In many cases, corporations are purchasing smaller farming entities, and as a result farmland is becoming largely consolidated in various areas of the US. High production costs, unstable commodity prices, high costs of freight, regulatory pressure, and land availability are just a few of the many reasons youth are not interested in following in the footsteps of those before them. Unless the government subsidizes farms, the emerging farming technologies cost far more than most farmers can afford. At this point in time, farmers find it difficult to find the necessary financial backing to make these innovations prove to be cost effective for their operations.
As we consider the many challenges of the American farmer, I’d like to present a thought-provoking quote stated by President John F. Kennedy of our recent past:
“The farmer is the only man in our economy who buys everything at retail, sells everything at wholesale, and pays the freight both ways.” – John F. Kennedy
The next time you stroll through the produce aisle at your local food market and grimace about ticket prices on fresh produce, just remember that those products are grown at a high cost. Furthermore, the average retail cost for our food is not likely to decline any time soon. However, new ideas and innovations to assist farming endeavors are surfacing each day. With safe, genetically engineered crops being a heavily studied concept, and with more cost-effective precision technology options, there is optimism that we can feed an exponentially growing population. In addition, new research is continually being conducted on growing crops with less pressure to the environment, studies on higher yielding crops, minimizing inputs, etc. Becoming more aware of the agricultural production challenges in our state and nation will help us as consumers minimize waste and appreciate the value in having delicious, nutrient rich vegetables and meats at our finger-tips any time we want. I hope to continue to have an abundance and a variety of fresh nutritious food items available to my family in the future. How about you?
Contact De Broughton at Suwannee County Extension for upcoming programming focused on agricultural awareness education. 386-362-2771
Alexandratos, N. and J. Bruinsma. 2012. World agriculture towards 2030/2050: the 2012 revision. ESA Working paper No. 12-03. Rome, FAO.
Athearn, K., Hodges, A., Broughton, D., and Griffin, J. 2017. Suwannee County’s Agricultural Economy.
Mancino, L., Guthrie J., VerPloeg, M., Lin, B. USDA Economic Service. Nutritional Quality of Foods Acquired by Americans: Findings From USDA’s National Household Food Acquisition and Purchase Survey. Economic Information Bulletin No. (EIB-188) 41 pp.
Witlin, R. Global Food Crisis Response Program, The World Bank. http://www.worldbank.org/en/results/2013/04/11/global-food-crisis-response-program-results-profile
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