Recently, I ran across an interesting set of numbers -- 50, 100, 70. These three numbers linked to the following tidbit: "By the year 2050, we will need to produce 100% more food coming from a 70% increase in technology." That's quite the job for the less than 1% of Americans who claim farming and ranching as a primary source of income. Who will grow the food in the upcoming generations?
I ran across an article in the Western Farm Press, Sustainability Issue Collides With World Food Production, and it discussed how we will generate enough food to feed the world in the future.
"The world is headed for a food crisis as societies struggle to figure out how to feed the 2.7 billion more people who will be on earth in 2050 than there are today. The catch-22 of that challenge? Arable land needed to meet that daunting challenge is disappearing as the population grows. Agriculture must produce much more with far less resources to feed the world in 40 years. The scenario is being muddled in the current era of agricultural sustainability, a term that defies a universal definition. Several years ago an executive with a major California agricultural trade group identified 27 definitions at that time including: 1) Sustainability meets the needs of the present without compromising the needs of the future; 2) The sustainable 3Ps — profit, planet and people; 3) Don’t eat the seed corn."
The article concluded that regardless of how it is defined, sustainability demands will continue to fall upon food producers. With that daunting task ahead of us, I think it’s going to be critically important to nurture aspiring young producers; however, in the face of high input costs, escalating land prices and the increasing challenge of obtaining credit, beginning farmers and ranchers certainly have a steep slope to climb.
So, what advice would you have for the next generation of food producers? How would you define sustainability? What advancements in food production and technology need to be made to meet the demands of 2.7 billion additional people?
By the way, Wes Ishmael is in the midst of a series on the issue of sustainability currently running in BEEF magazine. Take a look at his first two articles in the series from the October and November issues.