What is in this article?:
- Agricultureâ€™s economic forecast is sunny... with a few clouds
- Softening alfalfa prices?
- Keys to feed the world
- Russ Tronstad, University of Arizona agricultural economist, predicts bullish demand and prices for western-grown tree nuts, fruits, and vegetables.
- He expects a possible softening in alfalfa prices in the near term, and a mixed future for western irrigated cotton.
Keys to feed the world
On the topic of feeding 9-billion-plus people, Tronstad believes agriculture can meet the challenge.
The International Food Policy and Research Institute predicts that food production must increase 60 percent from 2010 levels to meet the demand in 2050. To achieve the increase, higher yields are expected to supply 80 percent of the increase. The remaining 20 percent needs to come from additional farmed acreage, primarily in Brazil and Sub-Saharan Africa.
Tronstad says U.S. farm land acreage is expected to remain about the same. Tighter water supplies will cause western agriculture to reduce the production of lower-valued commodities.
“I believe the world’s producers can feed 9 billion people by 2050,” Tronstad said. “For this to happen we need improved yields and less storage losses in developing countries.”
Other economic tidbits from Tronstad’s e-filing cabinet include these points.
- Production agriculture employs 1.4 percent of the U.S. workforce (farms selling $1,000 or more of product).
- Food represents 13 percent of the U.S consumers’ expenditures (food consumed inside and outside the home).
- 12.5 percent of the world is undernourished (868,000 million people). This includes about 26 percent of those living in Sub-Saharan Africa.
- Higher incomes around the world will reduce the consumption of rice and wheat in favor of higher protein foods.
Tronstad also shared USDA data on how much of the global food and fiber supply is produced by U.S. farmers today, compared to 30 years ago. Below, the numbers on the left are the 1983-1984 totals. On the right are the current percentages.
- Rice – 2.1 percent then and 1.3 percent now;
- Wheat – 13.4 percent then and 8 percent now;
- Coarse grains – 25.4 percent then and 30 percent now;
- Soybean products – 64 percent then and 34 percent now; and
- Cotton – 13.2 percent then and 11.9 percent now.
Tronstad also said agricultural output falls into six categories – what Tronstad calls the “Six F’s of Agriculture” - food, fiber, fluids (coffee and wine), fuels (biofuels and wood), flowers, and fun (on-farm entertainment).
He noted that the boom in global commodity prices in recent years triggered significant financial investments in the agricultural infrastructure in Brazil, Argentina, and other developing countries. With many of these related infrastructure costs now paid, Tronstad says these countries will continue to produce grain and oilseeds even if crop prices decline.
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