A LOOK INTO OUR FOOD FUTURE
WILL D. CARPENTER
A poem written by Alfred Lord Tennyson over a hundred years ago contains these lines: “For I dipt into the future, far as human eye could see, saw the vision of the world, and all the wonder that would be.” While Lord Tennyson’s prediction of a world full of wonder still holds true, along with the wonder, comes the enormous challenge of providing for the ever-growing population who are experiencing that marvel.
What must the future of agriculture look like in order to accommodate the needs of coming generations? How, in just a few short years, can the agricultural community produce enough food to feed an additional two to three billion people, with no additional cropland, with less fuel and other resources, and in a rapidly changing environment?
The challenge of adequate future food production seems not only daunting, but impossible to meet. Let me elaborate:
Future farmers will have to grow nearly half again as much grain as is being produced now, and this will have to be achieved on the same amount, or even less land than what is presently available. Erosion must be reduced by 95 percent on 100,000,000 acres, in order to preserve top soil, which is one of the world’s most valuable resources. Water, clearly our MOST valuable resource, will have to be viewed in entirely different ways, and the conservation of it will become increasingly vital. The use of gasoline must be reduced dramatically per acre, in order to shrink the sizable amount of fossil fuel we are currently consuming. Finally, all of this must be achieved with less utilization of human labor, in order to free folks from the drudgery of farm work, so they can decrease strenuous labor and pursue education.
The task at hand is monumental, and it must be achieved in a relatively short period of time. The undertaking might seem as impossible as putting a man on the moon, but the result of possible failure in food production is even more significant. Had we been unsuccessful in putting a man on the moon, no one would have starved, but if we fail in this endeavor, PEOPLE WORLDWIDE WILL DIE.
Here’s the good news! Almost every challenge listed above has already been accomplished. In 2015, over 100,000,000 acres produced more than in any previous year in our history, with the least amount of erosion. More attention is being given to pollution, and thus the quality of our lakes and rivers are improving, and consequently, our reservoirs are growing. Through the use of improved practices, over 500,000,000 gallons of gas was saved in one year’s time. There has been a major cutback in human labor, and with more and more of the work being achieved through the use of machinery, people aren’t trapped on the farm, but can now seek education or another skill base. Additionally, the quality of our food is at an all-time high.
These improvements and achievements have been realized through the hard work and dedication of men and women from academia, industry and the farmers themselves. Their decades-long efforts, undertaken with few resources, are coming to fruition, and their struggle for more and more improvement continues.
At a time when there is much adverse publicity directed at the agricultural industry, it is important to note that all of these achievements have become reality, with very little recognition or attention acknowledged by the press or opposition groups. It’s an astonishing, little-told story, but one that provides us with some hope for the “wonder that would be.”