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Megan Vissering

March 5, 2014
Exposition
Expectations of the Future of Agriculture
An exponentially growing population, struggling with a limited amount of resources, is
making agriculture increasingly important. Every country is dependent on agriculture to feed its
people, even those incapable of producing a crop. Currently, farmers struggle to produce
enough goods to feed the worlds 7.2 billion people, and worryingly, analysts predict the
population to reach 9.6 billion in 2050. To combat this challenge, dramatic changes have been
made within the agricultural industry over the past decade. No longer from behind the scenes,
the agriculture industry must continue to utilize technology and preservation in order to supply
the worlds large demands.
Despite the negative connotations associated with genetically modified organisms
(GMOs), this technology can prevent worldwide food scarcity. Agriculturalists need
biotechnology to alter their input products so average yields can continue to grow in a safe and
environmentally friendly manner. Modifying food boosts nutritional content in a less time
consuming way when compared to conventional breeding techniques; this technology can
provide third world countries a balanced diet as well as offer wealthy countries a variety of
goods. While not everyone is currently accepting of these technologies, the agriculture industry
is going to be required to increase its efforts to inform consumers, both international and
domestic. Since a great portion of consumers are above the college education level, mind-
changing information will be difficult to provide. These generations have developed their
opinions regarding GMOs; however, the new generation is in a position to acquire more
accurate information regarding this technology and view it in a more positive way. Highlighting
genetically modified foods in a basic science class will help the industry reach students of all
ages, and in turn, the technology will become more acceptable to society.
Conservation is a concept that is taking a priority over producing raw commodities, even
in urban settings. Environmentalists have well-funded groups that will continue to pressure the
agriculture industry to find new ways to produce feedstock in a more regulated environment.
New developments in more efficient fertilizer materials and application methods will surely
evolve from this demand. Farmers will need to continue to proactively embrace new
technologies that improve the quality and sustainability of our natural resources. Corporate
engineers are designing machinery with tracks instead of tires to decrease compaction that is
detrimental to farming efficiency; tractor tires put concentrated force on the ground whereas
tracks help to minimize pressure by expanding the pressurized area. Decreasing compaction will
keep soil in a condition to support plants growing roots. While soil and water conservation
have been a concern to farmers since the Dust Bowl, the issue has certainly come to the
forefront of public awareness over the past decade. Many are concerned that farmland is losing
its nutrient content due to mismanagement, but increased strip tillage and crop rotation
practices are predicted to be implemented to help preserve land, including rooftop gardens
found in cities. The agriculture industry will need to continue to take a leadership role in
controlling any adverse effects of its practices.
When you discuss agricultural production in the Midwest, grain production is quite a
dominant topic, but livestock production is also another key element in the agricultural industry
and is vital to feeding the growing population. This industry segment has been the target of
public scrutiny for its practices regarding everything from its feeding programs to its animal
care. In an interview with Drake Babcock, he stated that Proposition Two banned cages for
laying hens and crates for gestating sows; California passed this law to ensure the safety of
these animals, but inadequate research led to major economic downfalls (D. Babcock, personal
communication, March 4, 2014). The government and its officials did not realize that the cage
system reduced egg contamination and the crate system prevented fighting between
aggressive sows. Later, the law had to be revised to ensure quality and efficiency within these
systems; European-modeled crates were implemented to allow sows the choice to be confined
to a small but safe space (D. Babcock, personal communication, March 4, 2014). This is just one
example of how misinformation can lead to poor decisions. While there are likely to be
legitimately helpful changes in these practices in years ahead, stakeholders in the animal meat
production industry should increase their educational programs for the satisfaction of the
general public.
The common theme amongst these issues is education. Whether the subject is
advancements in grain, livestock, dairy, fruits, vegetables or other areas of production, the
industry must be proactive with education rather than remain in its defensive position. Since
the agricultural production industry is representing a very small segment of our countrys
population, science and industry will have to join forces to educate a world population. These
programs must not apply only to the quality, safety and efficiency created in the food supply
but also to the environmental stewardship aspects of the industry. The future is in the hands of
farmers. Agricultural production is vital and it is imperative the awareness of it importance is
raised.