America is a driving force in producing the safest most abundant food supply the world has ever known. It is important we continue to learn and grow to meet the appetite of an expanding world. Improving diets has helped people live longer. Throughout much of history, it was common for two generations to be alive at once, now three and often four generations are living together.
For thousands of years growing food didn’t change much and it took the majority of the population to feed ourselves. Along the way sometimes resources were misused and practices were counterproductive. The rise and fall of great civilizations can be correlated back to how well they treated their land. Did they learn and grow? Likely enough that you and I are here today.
The last 100 years has brought amazing opportunities for farmers to learn and grow their capabilities. It is human nature when faced with a question to seek one answer. Twenty years ago when I started using precision farming methods I soon found I was generating more questions than answers. As a wealth of new questions arose I found progress was made by focusing on key areas of safety and productivity developing those questions into even more questions, and then I could learn and grow the most. In times of dynamic change, it is important to keep opportunities open.
I like the feedback precision farming methods give me, just like I think it is great that we can test down to parts per billion in the lab. I am driven to find ways to do a better job, and data helps leverage opportunities. Past societies have shown some organized effort and control is needed in the food chain. We are changing and maturing agriculture so fast that the one answer solution of regulations often limits opportunities.
Caring for the land is very important to every farmer. Cover crops are something that is being looked at by many. It would be interesting to learn how they improve water quality.
As a Minnesota soybean farmer, my first preference would be to partake in value-added ways to market my crop. That is becoming more difficult to do as more barriers are added with regulations. We need to wake up and realize we are in a world economy now. India is on track to become the largest exporter of beef. Shame on us to shift production to areas of the world where safety and conservation is based on eyeball approach and sometimes they just look the other way, yet we are held to parts per million regulatory here. That is not being good world stewards.
As we try to improve nutrition, the challenges are many. Fish has a long history of being a staple for many and going forward will continue to be an important source of protein. It is efficient to produce, however, again American farmers are missing out on an opportunity to learn and grow in this value-added market due to outside constraints. With current market mix, fish soon will become the largest import product into the United States. This should not bode well with the most efficient farmers in the world to have an ag product become their largest import.
In the next 50 years, we will need to produce more food than was consumed in the past 7,000 years. To accomplish this, all involved in producing food will need to work together. We cannot constrain production here but must bring the level of safety and conservation up around the world. Farmers around the world enjoy the opportunity to learn and grow.
Paul Freeman is a soybean farmer from Starbuck. He is Vice President of the Minnesota Soybean Growers Association and is the chair of the Advocacy action team, which is made up of 12 MSGA directors. Paul can be reached at email@example.com.