Increased production can also result from increased acreage devoted to crop production. We are just beginning to see what can happen when agricultural areas in the former Soviet Union are brought back into production. Countries that once imported grain are now major exporters of wheat. In any one year they may face reduced production due to weather issues, but in the long-run they have the potential to significantly increase world production capacity.

Likewise, Brazil can increase its harvestable area in several ways. Farmers there can increase production through double and in some areas triple cropping, shifting current pastureland to cropland, rotating current pastureland between crops and grazing, and opening up new areas to production. It has been estimated that Brazil has the potential to bring an additional 300 million acres into production while still complying with current environmental laws.

As we look down the road 40 years from now, we are less worried about achieving an increase in production of 100 percent than we are concerned about how to manage all of this potential. For you see, we think it is important that we always have the proven potential to produce far more food than we need at any one time. We just don’t need to use all of it all of the time. Then, if a crisis comes we can bring the additional capacity online.  The question is, are we willing to develop policies that allow us to manage that overcapacity so that we maintain its availability while avoiding dragging prices down with overproduction?

Daryll E. Ray holds the Blasingame Chair of Excellence in Agricultural Policy, Institute of Agriculture, University of Tennessee, and is the Director of UT’s Agricultural Policy Analysis Center (APAC). Harwood D. Schaffer is a Research Assistant Professor at APAC. (865) 974-7407; Fax: (865) 974-7298; dray@utk.edu  and hdschaffer@utk.edu; http://www.agpolicy.org.