Happy National Ag Week! With less than 2% of the American population involved in production agriculture, the industry gets lost on a lost of folks minds. However, agriculture is incredibly vital! Without it, you’d be hungry and naked…not a pretty picture.
I recently watched a great YouTube video by the Center for Food Integrity called “What Is The Ethical Choice?” and I thought I’d share some of the statistics they presented. It seemed fitting for National Ag Week. The video is 15 minutes (an eternity in YouTube time), but is worth watching! Unless otherwise stated, all statistics presented were taken from this video.
In 1950 there were 154 million people in the United States. At that time there were 5.6 million farms and one farmer fed about 30 people. In 2010 there were 310 million people in the U.S. We had 2 million farms and one farmer fed about 155 people.
If the number of farms and the level of production remained constant from 1950 until today, there would be no food for about 151 million people. That’s approximately half the U.S. population! So, the population of California, Texas, New York, Florida, Illinois, Pennsylvania, Ohio, Michigan and Georgia (the nine most populous states) would have no food.
Due to the innovations in American agriculture, we are using less land, less water and creating a smaller environmental footprint. Here are some stats to back that up:
- Farmers used 10 million more acres in 1960.Compared to 1950, U.S. milk producers provide 63% more milk with 58% fewer cows
- Compared to 1944, each gallon of milk produces a 63% smaller carbon footprint, generates 76% less manure, uses 65% less water and uses 90% less land.
- Compared to 1950, pork producers provide 176% more pork per sow with 44% fewer sows.
Here are some other amazing production increase vs. land increase numbers. Since 1950:
- Lettuce growers produce 12 times more lettuce on only 2.5 times more land
- Tomato growers produce 8 times more tomatoes on only 3 times more land
- There are 53% more eggs produced with 3% less land
- Farmers raise 11 times more soybeans on only 5 times more land
- Wheat growers produce 69% more wheat on 6% fewer acres
But American agriculture’s job isn’t done. As U.S. and world populations grow, food insecurity continues to rise. We have less and less land to produce more and more food.
Even though Americans spend the least amount of their incomes on food, the rate of food insecurity in our country is higher than ever. In 2009, nearly 15% of U.S. households were food insecure at some time during the year. This attests to the need for more innovation in the industry so we can have affordable, abundant food sources for everyone.
Each day there are 206,600 more people in the world. If production doesn’t increase, prices will increase and those who can least afford it will be impacted the greatest. If we can’t close the gap, by 2050 there won’t be any food for 300 million people (almost the entire U.S. population). According to the United Nations, 25,000 people (half of which are children), die every day from hunger and malnutrition. The Center for Food Integrity video posed the question “How can we close this gap?”
“More food will need to be produced before the end of this century than that combined over the last 10,000 years.” – 2007 International Forum on Soils, Society and Global Change. To close the gap, the rate of production needs to increase from 1.4% each year to 1.75% each year.
- 80% of future production growth must come from increased yields with responsible use of innovation and technology
- 10-15% needs to come from increased cropping density
- 5-10% needs to come from expansion of land use
Increased production isn’t the only solution. There is a need for improved access, education, transportation and more. It will take a collaborative effort between producers, researchers, innovators, policy makers and consumers. It’s a big challenge, but I think American farmers and ranchers are up to the task!
Again, here’s the link to the Center for Food Integrity’s video. What do you think will be the key to feeding the growing world population?
From RealPartner Liz Lauck – Wyoming Stock Growers Association