What do you feel is U.S. agriculture's responsibility in feeding a population expected to exceed 9 billion people by 2050? Do you agree or disagree that it takes all types of farms to offer both the choices and necessary quantity of food?
I believe that US agriculture must take an active and strong role to provide food for this growing population. YES, it will definitely take all types of farms to not only feed this population but to also provide choices. Our efficiency and technology will have to improve to meet these demands. It is the golden age of agriculture and that includes ALL types of agriculture.
It seems to me that the question of feeding a population has more to do with logistics and distribution than sheer production capability. Right now, there is more food being produced than is currently consumed, but many areas are hungry just because there are *no grocery stores* where they are. Can you imagine what it's like to have to drive 50 miles to buy some produce that isn't rotting in some gas station convenience store? We need to work harder to eliminate 'food deserts' as well as end food waste, not grow more and more food for saturated markets!
American agriculture can and will very esialy meet the demand. It seems a lot of the areas where food is not as available is in the third world because of the cost to bring the food to these markets. The problem in the US and elswhere is the cost of the food.
If you mass consume chicken, pork and beef through cheap junk food type products then somewhere somehow they will be mass produced by someone. See this is where America just doesn't get it.You as a nation have to change your DIET before you can have any realistic, positive or sustainable movement towards a healthy agricultural system. Why is it legal to serve up crap food that will eventually kill and does kill people (cancer)? In my opinion standing up to the big companies and saying no we are not going to eat this crap is more important than going to war as the food we are eating is killing way more people. All the answers are in the soil. It should not be a question of "how are we going to artifically produce enough food to feed everyone?" this will lead to lots and lots of dead soil and dead people. Regulation and revolution in WHAT we eat, surely this is where the money needs to go. We can't put the cart before the horse. Why do we support companies that are selling food that kills people? I know this is a problem way too big for most people to get their heads around but if we ever get leaders in agriculture who understand this and can turn it around then America's major problems I think would disappear. But what would a rancher know.
Genetically modifying food is definitely not the answer to feeding more people. It's my personal opinion that taking corporations out of farming and restoring small family farms is a much better option. Subsidies do not grow crops and inflate commodity prices is counter productive and ineffective, benefitting only the corporate farms. As a small "Certified Naturally Grown" farm, we grow more food than we can possibly consume and sell our surplus at local farmers markets. Individuals need to take more responsibility for their own food consumption. Chickens for instance, don't come neatly wrapped in plastic packages from Costco....not in the real world. Know where your food comes from, take part in producing some of what you eat. Even if you live in an apartment in the city, you can still grow fresh sprouts...in a jar, under your kitchen sink. Consumers need to understand that everything they eat isn't available year round, know your seasons and eat what is fresh and abundant. Our grandparents understood that if you can't pronounce the ingredients then it probably isn't real food. They grew gardens and canned fresh produce for use during winter months. We all must take more responsibility for what we eat...seek out local growers and take full advantage of what's fresh "now."
There can always be debate for objectionable questions. However, most should be able to agree that variety (diversity) is a good thing. And with variety comes choices. One choice that is currently not available to consumers is the choice to support and eat GMO or not. We cannot make this choice because GMOs are unlabeled! I only ask that GMO's carry a label saying as much, is it too much to ask? If it is novel enough for a patent it deserves a label. It cannot be substantially equivalent and worthy of a patent at the same time. LABEL GMO.
We can easily find ways to debate almost any subject. Most of us here can agree (in our own ways) that variety (aka diversity) is a good thing. The beauty being choices. The fact that GMOs are not labeled here infringes on our rights to choose because we do not have a means to make the decision. All I ask for that GMOs carry a label stating as such.
9 billion, with a "b". That is a lot of people. So many, in fact, that some believe we will be exceeding earth's carrying capacity (carrying capacity is the ability of a system to maintain a population). Put a thousand earthworms in a gallon jar and fill it to the top with compost and after 2 weeks you will know what I mean. We could probably extend the life of that system with some artificially created nutrients, maybe even find a way to use petrochemicals to extend it even further.
This isn't so much different from what we are doing now. How many of us are aware of the fact that to produce 2,000 pounds of anhydrous ammonia fertilizer, 33,000 to 35,000 cubic feet of natural gas is consumed. In the event you are not aware, natural gas along with all petroleum is non-renewable. No matter how much technology we have.
Some would say that we are already exceeding earth's carrying capacity because of the overuse of non-renewable resources that includes the depletion of ancient aquifers as well. Tell me how it is then, that you plan to avoid a cataclysm at the end of the petroleum age. It won't happen tomorrow and it won't happen next week but Malthus was right when he said it was unavoidable. His timeline was wrong because he couldn't foresee technology and the crutch it would become for us but non-renewable means non-renewable and short-sighted means short-sighted.
We need all kinds of farming, but without science and some population control in the third world, many will starve in years to come. Our country and U.S. family farms cannot just keep giving food to people that are not being responsible. If there was only oldtime organic farming, maybe half of the people alive today would have starved-this is the real world.
It depends on what 'all types of farms' means. However, it seems to me that growing extensive amounts of corn, soy and cotton for the subsidies generated is wrong-headed when wheat, rice and other cereals could better be grown for better nutrition around the world than used to feed cattle and produce junk food which will eventually break the health-care systems around the world (such as they may exist). It is not just the organic vs inorganic, local vs non-local question but ultimately 'why are we growing what we are growing and does it serve our bodies?" Do we in America and by extension, around the world want to feed ourselves and our children well and at a fair price all the while acknowledging the elephant in the room which will be heart disease, diabetes, obesity and the famine that sugars in our diet will undoubtedly insure.
US Framers and Ranchers must use all methods and technology available to feed the population. It is sad that even today there are "food deserts" in the United States, but what is even worse is that there are still people dying everyday from starvation. It would be irresponsible for farmers and ranchers to not use any means available to produce food.
As of today, the United States farming community is able to feed the entire world. I have seen figures that suggest the world can be fed twice over by American farmers. At the moment, the real issue is inequality in food distribution combined with exploiatation of developing world natural resources, lack of fair trade and living wages, not more food production.
I think that you are asking the wrong questions and making bad assumptions. The very idea of increasing food production to feed a burgeoning world populaton may be wrong.The historical problem has been food surpluses rather than shortages and which has driven down farm prices. The United Nations population data (low variant) shows world and U.S. population declining by 2050. The question is who will pay U.S. farmers to feed the world's people (even if they want our food) when even the current farm subsidies may be in jeopardy given the current fiscal/debt crisis? It is sometimes hard to move outside the ideas of the past. Greater diversity of farms/farmers will be needed in the future.
I recently rewatched the movie Food Inc. and watched the movie Fresh. Every time they showed shots of the gigantic factory farms and corn and soy fields I envisioned something different for those massive farms. I envisioned polycultures with different animals, vegetables, and fruits growing and feeding entire regions rather than trying to feed the world. These farms would employ a lot of people and provide organic whole food for every town from big to small. Also, we would not just depend on large farms, people would be encouraged to farm on their own or at least have a garden. Instead of consolidating everything, its just spreading the wealth and responsibility so the future of our food is shared.
Food aid (when not for emergency relief) can actually be very destructive on the economy of the recipient nation and contribute to more hunger and poverty in the long term.
Free, subsidized, or cheap food, below market prices undercuts local farmers who cannot compete and are driven out of jobs and into poverty, further slanting the market share of the larger producers such as those from the US and Europe. Many poor nations are dependent on farming, and so such food aid amounts to food dumping.
In the past few decades, more powerful nations have used this as a foreign policy tool for dominance rather than for real aid.
American agriculture could be that "jobs machine" that people are wondering about. Make "Yes We Can Feed Ourselves" a national project. The BLM could be another "jobs machine" and develop the "fibersheds." Give incentive to labor intensive agriculture, incentive to mixed small scale farming. So far the incentive goes to big debt for big machines to operate with fewer and fewer people. This makes us more at risk for pests and pollution and totally dependent on a constant supply of money for our food. We are supposed to get this money from jobs but there are not enough jobs to go around. Incentive for people to grow their own green jobs will give people real hope and be a great hedge against currency debasement.
I believe it will take all types of farms to offer choices to the population. Whether it is organic or conventional, corn and soybeans or vegetables - whatever. We all have different food traditions based on region or ethnic influences. I believe we can fill most of those needs here, but I also believe that we need to teach developing countries how to grow food in ways appropriate for their traditions.
Food is a complex issue that cannot be tucked into one tidy little box. We should be celebrating the diversity of the agricultural landscape we have in America. We could be spending our time working on solutions to the hunger problems at home instead of the infighting over which method or crop is the "right way" to farm.
It's up to individuals in the marketplace to decide what they want to purchase, it's up to agriculture to make sure that those choices are made available. As our population grows demand for all types of foods grown on all types of farms will continue to expand.
American farmers should not be responsible for feeding the world. American farmers should be responsible for growing food that Americans can eat -- fruits, vegetables, etc. in their local communities. Commodity crops do not feed the world -- they feed animals. We need to grow farmers, not just food. And we need to work collaboratively with people to help them grow food locally so they can feed themselves and their families. Access to land and capital is crucial for farmers and it must be shared in a democratic fashion -- no speculation and monopolies.
On considering the joy of raising one's own food including the home garden and meat birds and animals (which I do for at least 70% of my food currently) and knowing the cost of doing so versus going to a local store, I can say that for me it is the greatest life and privilege to be able to do this. That having been said, I also understand the origins of commercial farming with respect to feeding a large populous and with reducing the likihood of famine due to natural events. The world was much less populated when all food consumed came from local sources and people not infrequently went without and hungry. I imagine that many of the population that attack and criticize large scale production don't really know what it means to go hungry.
The debate over one form of farming over another form of farming has gotten to the extremes of polarization as has our current dysfunctional political process. There is a reason and a place for different farm practices which in my mind should find a way to co-exist respectfully. Respect toward our country's natural resources and respectful and humane animal husbandry practices are achievable and in the long run desirable by both large and small agricultural settings. Why don't we consider toning down finger pointing and work toward solutions that address nutritional value, preservation of natural resources, humane and respectful treatment of the animals that provide us sustanance in our ever growing ... and over-human-populated (now there is another polarized issue) world?
You make it sound like farmers have an obligation to assure the masses are fed. Farmers will continue to produce food and fiber as long as the can make a living doing so and it is economiclly feasible. We are not OBLIGATED to feed anyone. We are the most regulated industry in the world, we are not the ones that puke millions of barrels of oil into the ocean. What have been the conequences of "big oil" doing that, NOTHING. By law, we have to triple rinse a herbicide container and apply the rinsate back IN TO the soil where it was applied. Can't even sell raw milk. Come and see us when there is no alternative(s) and you are starving. I will bet there will be no regulations about how "safe" it is to fill your hungry bellies. That time will be here sooner than later. If the Govt. regulated the banking industry and Wall St. like they do farmers, we would not be in the fix we are in.
If the world was once again filled with small farms producing for local populations, we can reduce the distribution issues. On the other hand, there are some crops, like small grains, that are certainly more efficient when produced on huge farms. I feel the US needs to be more involved in education around the world to help farmers grow food for a more local population in the most efficient models possible for the locality. Those models MUST include integrated farms including field crops, vegetables AND livestock when such models are appropriate. The US agriculture as a whole needs to broaden it's perspective and really work on reducing the prejudices that exist between different production systems.
US agriculture is in no way responsible for feeding 9 billion people. We should do our best to feed as many people as possible, beginning with our own population, and consistent with the economics involved, but we can not be the world's food basket any more than we can be the world's policeman.
What people sometimes forget is that we will want to continue to exist after we have fed the 9 billion in 2050, so the types of farms we used to generate the food for the 9 billion have to be those types that will leave the soil, water, and other resources in in useful condition.
Most of the world is not fed with traditional agriculture techniques. We need to focus on using the incredible productivity of modern agriculture to avoid calamity on a mass global scale. America produces 18% of the world's food on 10% of its land. We need to keep the issue focused on what is so very important. Providing food. We have the safest, most effective food supply in the world. The reason is that we have smart and committed people in our industry. It is in these peoples' best interest to protect the land on which they live (and their families' health). Our country was founded on being a leader in industry. Agriculture is an industry. It is a good thing when industries become more efficient and less wasteful of natural resources. Supply and demand is key here.
I'm a firm believer in choices!! It takes all types of farms to feed the world; diversity is necessary.
US agriculture should concentrate on maintaining integrity of American soils and local food security, NOT feeding a bloated population.
First of all, I don't think it's the resposibility of the USA to feed the world. Every country has at least some ability to feed itself. I think they need to take more responsibilty for their own food production. More programs to promote local farming and to bring in new, younger farmers. More promotion and education of organic farming practices, soil conservation and seed saving techniques and for God's sake....get rid of GMO's. Just look what GMO's have done to the farmers of India and Mexico and to their crop's genetic diversity!
I read all comments and compared them with the alarming statistics from last month's Feed the World seminar.
Start by correcting the erroneous statements in the comments that misrepresent the severity of a crisis that is here NOW:
(1) Nicole, according to the USDA, ninety-eight percent of all farms in the U.S. are family farms. Farm, Inc is a propaganda tool used to manipulate the naive. Starvation has a way of leveling such tactics.
(2) Although the RATE OF GROWTH will fall, the NUMBER OF PEOPLE will continue to increase. The UN Population projections provide: World population was projected to grow from 6.1 billion in 2000 to 8.9 billion in 2050, increasing therefore by 47 per cent. More recent projections than this 2004 study, project over 10 billion by 2050.(Continued in next post).
Continuation of prior comment:
(3) IN 18 YEARS, THE WORLD WILL NEED 40% TO 50% MORE FOOD THAN IT IS PRODUCING NOW!
(4) IN 38 YEARS, THE WORLD WILL NEED 100% MORE FOOD THAN IT IS PRODUCING NOW!
(5) If all the unused potential agricultural land in the world could be brought into production tomorrow, WE WOULD ONLY HAVE 13% MORE LAND TO USE TO PRODUCE THE NEEDED FOOD!
(6) The average US family spends only 6.2% of its AFTER tax income to feed itself--that is DOWN from 7.5% in 1950! That figure is going to go up at record rates.
(7) gstanley - The US has 10% of the world's agricultural land and produces 18% of the world's food. WE provided the technology to feed the world, but we are not doing it alone, much less twice over.
(8) While we have no obligation to feed the world, we better do our best to help or we will defending not only our borders, but our homes, fields and animals from starving hordes of people.
A big step back for providing food to feed the world. Recently, due to poor journalism and over hype, the main stream media (largely abc), has dealt a devastating blow to the ag economy, on there "Pink Slime" reporting. As a result BPI has closed 3 of its 4 plants, and has removed 10 - 12 lbs. of lean protein per head from the market. Yes it takes all kinds of farms to provide for the growing population. We must also be good citizens of this earth and use every possible portion of protein that comes from the animals we raise. It will take an estimated 1.5 million additional head of cattle per year to make up this shortfall.