Seven Billion People! Sometime in the last couple of months, the seven billionth inhabitant of this planet was born. That is a lot of mouths to feed.
The world is relying on farmers to feed that population, making this an incredibly exciting time to be a part of production agriculture!
And it is a noble mission: Farmers Feed People.
But as the world population continues to increase, this noble mission becomes the daunting challenge of producing more food on less land with less supplemental water and less petrochemical inputs. And we need to do it cheaply enough that the world’s poorest people can afford to feed their families.
That kind of challenge would be a lot more frightening except for one salient fact: That is precisely what the American farmer has been doing for the past 75 years. More, better, cheaper, is not new to American agriculture; it is business as usual.
Nonetheless, the challenge is real and it will not be easy to meet. But it is exciting. A big part of meeting that challenge will have to come from the seed industry. Corn hybrids that more efficiently utilize available nitrogen are only a few years away. Soybean varieties with higher protein and healthier oils are just below the horizon. Crops that produce the same yield with much less water are in field testing. Better insect resistance traits and additional herbicide traits are almost here.
But there are risks as well. This past spring, sugar beet growers were just a court opinion away from losing RR sugar beets. And the time lag for government approval of new traits has nearly doubled.
Meanwhile, the population continues to grow. It is predicted to reach 9 Billion by 2050.
So as you turn your calendar to 2012, take a minute to look farther ahead. Make certain that you are upgrading your production skills to meet the challenge. Maybe find a way to communicate to non-ag folks about the need for continued biotech solutions. Both these things will be necessary as American farmers tackle the task of feeding the world.
And be proud that you are part of the solution!