More questions than answers…

David Richardson farms 1000 acres of land in the UK along with his wife and son. In January 2011, he submitted an op-ed to Farmers Weekly entitled Profits of doom: High food prices, but at what cost?

In the op-ed, he reflects on a particular item from the Oxford Farming Conference that caught his attention:

“There was no single message to take home. The nearest it came to having a theme was the “perfect storm” predicted by the UK’s chief scientific adviser, professor John Beddington…his well-publicized forecast of widespread hunger by 2030 as the world’s population passes 9 billion…”

The Conference lamented the need for increased investments in research and development of findings. Experts agreed that the “…yields of most crops have been stuck at historic levels for at least 15 years…Jim McCarthy, who farms in Argentina, New Zealand and the USA, as well as County Kildare stated that Europe was “becoming the home of second-class agriculture…hamstrung by regulations that denied farmers the opportunity to do their jobs as well as they could–costing EU taxpayers a fortune in unnecessary subsidies…”

The op-ed prompted me to ask the question where the US stands in regards to this. Is the US headed for higher food prices because of the increase in demand due to the increase in population? (Basic economics state that an increase in demand for a dwindling supply of a commodity will drive up the price. Therefore, a shortage of food in a highly populated region, increasing demand, will drive prices higher.)

According to America’s Farmers.com: to keep up with worldwide population growth, more food will have to be produced in the next 50 years as the past 10,000 years combined and today, the average US farmer feeds 155 people; in 1960, a farmer fed just 26 people. The American Farm Bureau Federation notes that: about 23% of raw US farm products are exported each year; Americans enjoy a food supply that is abundant, affordable overall and among the world’s safest…”

The US does not appear to be running out of food. However, with the increase in population externally in developing countries, will US farms be pressured to increase production to supply those countries and leave the US consumer at a shortage? If so, will US consumers be forced to pay higher food prices?

References/resources

Did You Know? Facts about America’s Farmers: http://www.americasfarmers.com/about/facts/did-you-know.aspx

American Farm Bureau Federation: Facts about agriculture: http://www.fb.org/index.php?fuseaction=newsroom.fastfacts

2050: A third more mouths to feed: http://www.fao.org/news/story/en/item/35571/icode/

The Oxford Farming Conference: http://www.ofc.org.uk/

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