U.S. pork industry can help meet global food demand – part one

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During the 20th century, the use of new agricultural technologies dramatically improved productivity, made food more abundant and helped reduce hunger. But according to the Global Harvest Initiative (GHI), to feed nine billion people by 2050, a science-based approach to new and existing technologies must be applied to the entire agriculture value chain.

GHI is a private-sector policy voice for agricultural productivity growth throughout the value chain and its mission is to encourage policy that will sustainably meet the demands of a growing world. The organization has released an annual Global Agricultural Productivity Report® (GAP Report®) since 2010, “to serve as a benchmark to analyze agricultural productivity growth. Each year, the report is updated to mark progress made toward sustainably doubling agricultural output over the next 40 years.”

U.S. pork producers are among the most productive in the world, but rising food needs from a growing world population require us to increase productivity even more.The GHI has five policy priorities to improve agricultural productivity growth and meet the challenge of feeding a growing global population:

  • Increase investment in agricultural development and rural infrastructure
  • Strengthen and streamline development assistant programs
  • Improve agricultural research funding, structure and collaboration
  • Embrace science- and information-based technologies
  • Remove barriers to global and regional trade in agriculture

The report states: “Enhancing and accelerating agricultural productivity in a sustainable manner is a central component for achieving global food and nutrition security. Productivity can be a growth engine, leading to improved food systems, economic transformation and poverty reduction. When coupled with access to nutritious food, agricultural productivity is a powerful base for building health and stability.”

We couldn’t agree more. Few in the United States have experienced the kind of hunger those in underdeveloped countries deal with on a daily basis. Ask anyone who has lived in poverty how they feel about food, and they will tell you they trust our food system to deliver safe, healthy, economical products. Anyone who is educated on our food system and is knowledgeable of the facts will tell you agriculture has been science-based for decades. To assume that all food should be locally grown, or only organic, is not only arrogant – it’s irresponsible.

“Growing more with less while conserving the natural resource base, and minimizing loss along the value chain while adapting to changing external conditions, are critical for policies and practices affecting agricultural productivity,” states the 2012 GAP Report

Do you feel U.S. food producers have a responsibility to feed the world? If so, what challenges does the industry face in accomplishing this task? Tell us what you think.

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St. Paul  |  February, 04, 2013 at 09:16 AM

This piece throws a wild elbow at the "locally grown, only organic" crowd which seems out of place given the scope of the problem. Do we have time to settle that scrum before moving forward with our own best thinking? There's arrogance in assuming that there's only one solution - regardless of attitudes about traditional versus CAFO solutions. If we start looking at issues like soil system health and water resource utilization there are complexities that deserve close scientific examination. Low density (not necessarily USDA certified organic) production is more labor intensive and cannot equal CAFO in terms of cost per pound, but cost per pound while critical is not the only metric of success. It's very easy to get all rosy about one thing or another without considering the balance of issues. I personally would favor having more than one iron in the fire. This would necessitate an Ag Policy that was more favorable towards small farms, while not crippling large corporate schemes. This probably is not possible given the climate in Washington and the scope of the problem. My prediction is that we'll wait for a crisis and then react when the costs of a balanced approach are too high. That is to say I believe we're headed towards some kind of collapse scenario. Chicken little, sky is falling, I know.

Paul Meers Swine Consulting LLC    
Smithville, Mo  |  February, 04, 2013 at 01:01 PM

The Pork Industry has the ability to supply a known "demand" given stable paramaters. Place fresh pork in open market places on the continent of Africa, for example, at an affordable price for all and see how fast the product disappears. Huge political and monetary hurdles with have to be overcome to extinguish hunger worlld wide. The US Pork Industry's challenge and possibly our fate rests in the hands of those who have never been hungry.

MN  |  February, 05, 2013 at 04:18 AM

We need to remember US food production accounts for only a fraction of total world food production. The answer to long term global food needs must encompass the entire world wide food chain. With a recent report that 50% or more of world food produced is never eaten it appears that major improvements in the areas of processing, storage and transportation in many parts of the world can have a far greater and faster effect on the world food supply than small incremental increases in the small fraction the US produces. While fine tuning our own production system we must learn to have a global perspective rather than a parochial one.


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