Embracing the Challenges of Feeding a Growing World

Opportunities are identified by speakers at NIAA conference.

Published on: Apr 9, 2012

With the world population expected to reach three billion people during the next 40 years the challenge of feeding the world is growing. At the recent National Institute for Animal Agriculture Annual Conference speakers identified the opportunities in the challenges faced by those in animal agriculture. Economist Dr. Terry Barr said we can, and will, feed the world. But he expressed that world meat production will need to increase by 73% and grain production must increase by 49% to meet demand by the year 2050.

"The question is what the level of relative prices for land, water and food will be required to achieve that goal in a sustainable manner and what will be the inherent volatility that will surround those relative prices," Barr said. "That will tell us about the likely structure of the global and regional markets that will evolve. It will also indicate the size of the required balance sheet, the amount of liquidity, the risk management tools and the human capital that will be needed to be competitive."

Meat and grain production must increase substantially in the next 40 years.
Meat and grain production must increase substantially in the next 40 years.

Barr urged agricultural nations to invest heavily in research and development to increase productivity in order to offset constraints such as land availability, water supply, climate variability and energy availability.

Colorado State University President Dr. Tony Frank agreed with Barr on the importance of research and development, but also advised those in animal agriculture to understand consumer concerns and perceptions that can lead to regulatory pressures and oversight. He asked producers to zero in on the common ground shared by animal agriculture, consumers and regulators. The common ground list included producing and eating a safe product, being environmentally conscious and caring about animal welfare and well-being. Frank encouraged animal agriculturalists to work with elected officials proactively, rather than waiting for regulations and reacting to them. He also encouraged talking and interacting with consumers rather than talking past them.

Miss American 2011 Teresa Scanlan also spoke at the NIAA Annual Conference and highlighted the need to bridge the gap between those who are involved in agriculture and those who are three generations or more removed from it. She says connecting the generations in various parts of the country can help right the misunderstandings regarding agriculture.