More food with fewer resources
Farmers feeding more with innovation and responsible land management
Gardeners planted their seeds earlier this spring, starting the process to produce their own personal harvest. Food is one of the few necessities of life and having a garden is a wonderful opportunity to capture nature’s goodness to share with family and friends. However, those who suggest the entire food system should be slowed down or rolled back to a simpler time are risking dangerous and unintended consequences.
Producing some of your own food, making smart choices about nutrition, and supporting responsible and efficient food production systems that produce more food using fewer resources should not be mutually exclusive. The more everyone can be involved in producing their own food, or connecting with those who grow it, the better off we all are. In fact, an informed public discussion about responsible choices for people, animals and the planet is exactly what we need.
“Fortunately, consumers in the U.S. frequently have the choice between purchasing organic and conventional foods and make food purchasing decisions that reflect their values, concerns and lifestyles,” stated Carl K. Winter, Ph. D, Director of the FoodSafe Program and an Extension Food Toxicologist at the University of California-Davis.
According to the World Wildlife Fund, we are currently consuming more food than can be produced by our planet. Our consumption rate is that of 1.25 planets. If developing countries continue the current projected path of growth the consumption rate grows to 11 planets. With our planet’s current growth, our monthly population increase is 6.3 million people.
Based on current projections we need to increase food production by 70 percent in the next 40 years. That will not happen by slowing down improvements in productivity. According to the United Nations, 80 percent of future production growth must come from increased yields, roughly 10 percent from higher cropping density and 10 percent from expanded land use. In other words, to meet the growing global demand for food we have to produce more, using less through innovation and the responsible use of technology. The good news is that America’s farmers have been doing that for decades.
For example, consumers told the U.S. pork industry they wanted meat with a leaner profile. The pork industry did what any good industry would do — it worked with nutritionists to carefully adjust diets and with veterinarians to ensure proper animal husbandry and care. Advancements in technology on the farm lead to a higher quality, safer food product for consumers.
Today, we produce 29 percent more eggs with 36 percent fewer hens, 145 percent more pork per sow with 47 percent fewer sows, 120 percent more wheat on 23 percent fewer acres, 474 percent more corn with 4 percent more acres and 63 percent more milk with 68 percent fewer cows than in 1950. Through responsible innovation, we are producing more food using fewer resources.
Farmers in Illinois and around the U.S. are committed to responsible management of the land and all our natural resources. In fact, farmers across the U.S. have reduced the amount of fertilizer needed to grow corn by 36 percent in the last 30 years.
Treating our natural resources with respect is what ensures that the farming industry will be here tomorrow and guarantees our children the opportunity to grow food for the world.
The public has a right to expect food producers to act responsibly, and because we have the most affordable food supply in the world, U.S. consumers have many options from which to choose. Decisions that limit the ability to increase productivity will affect future generations in the U.S. and around the world. Decisions that roll back productivity improvements have immediate consequences on food availability and affordability.
Learn more about food production and nutrition so you can better understand the consequences of market and political decisions that limit productivity. Be supportive of responsible, efficient production systems that allow us to feed more, using less. That’s the ethical choice.
This commentary is from Brent Scholl, President of the Illinois Pork Producers Association; Tim Lenz, President of the Illinois Corn Growers Association; Ron Moore, Chairman of the Illinois Soybean Association; Trevor Toland, President of the Illinois Beef Association and Phillip Nelson, President of the Illinois Farm Bureau.