I listen to National Public Radio all the time. I missed this article when it aired but you can catch it here.
This NPR article raises a huge philosophical issue that is vital to the future of American Agriculture in the long run. Do we, American Ag, feed the world? Are we feeding the world but making nutritional problems worse worldwide by providing cheaper but less nutritional food for the poor? Do American Agricultural production practices cause more environmental damage through pesticide and fertilizer use and create a larger carbon footprint from ethanol fuel usage than we can justify by our chosen types of food production?
These are questions American Agriculture, and indeed, Worldwide Agriculture, must answer for the future of mankind. I know, these phrases cause knee-jerk reactions on both sides of the issues here. “Future of Mankind” sounds ludicrously overstated. Is it? We all have to eat. We all have to live in a world where the environment is sustainable in the long run. We don’t have time for knee-jerks. Knee-jerks are, by definition, reflexive non-rationalized reactions. We need real, reasoned, factual, measurable responses balanced for all of the issues involved.
That is one of the problems I have with the NPR article. The Agriculture side answers production questions with facts about the quantities of food we produce and how many people we feed. The other side answers with surveys of thoughts and opinions on “What we think we should be doing”. The “knee-jerk” reaction on both sides is to de-value the other sides facts ( and, yes, surveys are facts when correctly done) saying that “You don’t tell the whole story”. Opinions are factual but are they based on feelings and perceptions or are they opinions based on statistical data of actual outcomes?
I do not have the answers. I Do know that Ag colleges across this nation are working on these problems. I do know that worldwide environmental issues are becoming more and more important whether you believe in Climate change or not. I do know that my Grandchildren are going to be facing different issues than my parents generation faced trying to raise a family on the farm.
Should American Ag be proud of what we accomplish? Pardon my French but “HELL YES”! We are feeding the world. We have raised our levels of food production to levels undreamt of 100 years ago. We do need to find a way to balance ALL of the factors involved in feeding a growing and changing world. American Ag Will lead the way.