The reports of the death of livestock agriculture have been greatly over exaggerated.
At the first International Livestock Forum last Tuesday, 28 students from around the country and the world heard from livestock industry and academic leaders. They had been selected from over 100 applicants and chosen to represent their states and countries in the discussion of the future. The news was good, because there is opportunity to be had in U.S. agriculture.
“For those of you young people in the room, you’re an age where you’re going to be asking yourself ‘what business do I want to be in?’ You’re in the right place in here. Agriculture is the right place. There’s some incredible opportunities that we have in this business,” said Randy Blach, CEO of CattleFax.
“We’re talking about growing the world population by 75-80 million people a year,” he said, citing averages derived from the projection of 9 billion people in 2050. “Who’s going to feed them? Whose role is it to feed those people? Is that an opportunity for U.S. agriculture? Is it an opportunity? I believe it is a tremendous opportunity. It’s already been a great opportunity for us in some segments.”
Here he was talking about the recent prices of cattle, as well as the margin gains made in pork and poultry. But demand alone can’t feed the world. Efficiency, transportation, and safety are important virtues to the U.S. system as well.
“Who has the most efficient production systems on the planet? Who has the safest food supply on the planet? Who has the trade laws in place? Who has all of this infrastructure in place today? It’s a huge, huge advantage for U.S. agriculture. Don’t underestimate that.”
While Blach encouraged them, Paul Genho, recently retired President of Farmland Reserve, laid a heavy weight of responsibility on their shoulders.
“Much of the world lacks the natural resources to feed themselves. We will feed them.”
During the lengthy question and answer section following his discussion of soil quality and the connection between starvation and civil unrest, Genho repeatedly told the guest students that their job is to tackle the hard questions. Come up with more creative answers than have past generations. Solve more dire problems. But in all of it, he had faith in them.
“You’re feeding the world. There’s nothing more noble. You’re doing the good work. I’m very proud of you 28 because, number one, you’re in a noble profession, and number two, you’re bright enough to work hard at it and see you’re here.”
He closed with an “Atta boy,” to the crowd. He quickly added “and girl!” noting, as previous speakers had observed, that the new generation of agricultural students is overwhelmingly made up of young women. — Kerry Halladay, WLJ Editor