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Published April 23, 2012, 08:28 AM

Ideas, creativity crucial to future of ag

PIERRE, S.D. — South Dakota producers have worked together to make agriculture the No. 1 industry in the state, an accomplishment that all South Dakotans can take pride in. By individuals working together to find new advances and helping each other out, agriculture will continue to grow into an even larger industry.

By: Walt Bones, Agweek

PIERRE, S.D. — South Dakota producers have worked together to make agriculture the No. 1 industry in the state, an accomplishment that all South Dakotans can take pride in. By individuals working together to find new advances and helping each other out, agriculture will continue to grow into an even larger industry.

With the increasing world population along with the decreasing amount of farmland, agriculture will be required to become more efficient and effective by utilizing its collective talents and embracing the use of technology in the industry.

The world population is poised to hit 10 billion people by 2100. In 1960, one farmer fed 25 people; today one farmer feeds approximately 155.

Currently, agriculture produces enough food to feed everyone but new innovations will need to be developed to accommodate the growing demand on farmers and ranchers. So far, agriculture has been able to meet this expanding need; however, it is doing so with fewer acres of farmland.

More with less

The Natural Resources Conservation Service has published the fact that in the United States in the past 25 years, 40 million acres of land have been “developed” for commercial, residential, industrial or recreational purposes with 14 million acres deemed as “prime farmland.” By using simple math, 25 years is approximately 14 million minutes, which means in the past 25 years, one acre of prime farmland has been taken out of production every minute. So in the last hour, the world has gained 6,000 new people who will need to be fed from 60 fewer acres of prime farmland.

Advances in biotechnology, animal husbandry, machine technology and even social media have all greatly affected the way farmers and ranchers operate. While still retaining the traditions and skillsets that our forefathers have taught us, we are able to manage the new technological advances to produce better products, have higher yields, with less fertilizer, less fossil fuels and fewer herbicides and pesticides.

Addressing the issues

Forty-six diverse South Dakota producers came together this past summer to identify the main issues that are affecting agriculture in the state.

After identifying and prioritizing topics, they focused on possible solutions and potential obstacles that may hinder future successes. The key areas identified were public infrastructure, increasing livestock production, water management, increasing youth involvement, local zoning, increasing value- added production and increasing public understanding of agriculture. The South Dakota Department of Agriculture will continue to work closely with stakeholders to guarantee our future success.

Despite the growing uncertainty of the federal government’s looming budget crisis and its effect on the farm bill, agricultural producers still are prospering because they are investing in themselves and their operations.

Regardless of the obstacles set before us, agriculture will continue to grow because it is an industry comprised of supremely talented, hardworking individuals. But for agriculture to continue with its progress, it is imperative that all parts of agriculture work together as a team.

By working together, agriculture as a whole can strive for even greater advances and have a more powerful voice in educating consumers on the great stewardship and products that they can expect from our farmers, ranchers and processors.

It is imperative that agriculture continues to foster the creative thinking and the new ideas that will enable us to continue feeding our population and the world.

Editor’s Note: Bones is the secretary of the South Dakota Department of Agriculture.

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