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Published June 01, 2012, 12:00 AM

A growing industry: Southwest North Dakota producers believe no shortage in food supply

Earth gained another mouth to feed when the world’s 7 billionth person was born in October.

Earth gained another mouth to feed when the world’s 7 billionth person was born in October.

The International Food Policy Research Institute foresees the world awaiting the arrival of its 8 billionth resident sometime in 2020.

But the competition is on for the world’s resources, particularly food. Luckily, it’s a competition rancher Anthony Larson predicts agricultural producers are positioned to win.

Larson of Hettinger works 40 miles away from home with his parents and brother on Larson Ranch, a family-run cow/calf and yearling operation.

He is the fourth-generation of his family working the ranch, and Larson said he believes regulations will play a big role in food production levels.

“Of course, we want to be good stewards of the land because if we take care of the land, it will take care of us,” he said. “But when it comes to agriculture, we also need to be cautious about the negative impact of overregulation — like agriculture becoming too costly for young farmers to afford — without sound science behind it.”

Larson, who has been actively involved with raising livestock for 20 years, said the beef industry remains profitable for him and his family.

He said his family is doing more on the ranch to increase production, like using pipeline water to allow for a more intensive grazing operation where more beef can be raised on the same number of acres.

“The industry needs to remain profitable so that younger producers can get in and become part of the industry,” he said. “I think the agricultural industry will rise to the occasion and make sure younger producers can be profitable, so they’re able to produce enough so food can be available for everybody as the population grows.”

This isn’t the first time producers have needed to increase the food supply for a growing population, said Warren Woroniecki, a North Dakota State University graduate who works on his family farm of 1,000 cattle north of Hebron.

He also runs Prairie Nutrition Center Inc. in Hebron, where he consults and manages his clients’ beef production issues to help them make the best nutrition decisions for their animals based on economics.

Last week at a three-day conference in Lexington, Ky., with food producers from 70 countries, Woroniecki said he learned that the world’s population is expected to grow by 3 billion come 2050.

He said that would require food-producing countries to produce one-third more food on the acres they currently have, and he believes the need can be met with the help of new methods and technology.

“The technology is there to do it, we just need be better at it,” Woroniecki said. “We can better use technology, in regards to genetics of a herd and buying replacement stock suited for the environment. We can also do the best to work with nature and manage the extremes in weather, so there are fewer ups and downs in beef production.”

Crop production also must be elevated to meet consumption of a growing population, and Jim Bobb, grain division manager for Southwest Grain in Dickinson, said the advancements are out there to make it happen.

“Technology and equipment like GPS help to increase productivity and increase food supplies,” he said. “My feeling, as I see it today, is that we will be able to keep up with the growing demand for food, but there’s always the unforeseen, like extended droughts, that could change that.”

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