Retired executive for John Deere speaks on global food issues
Think back to the late 1980s and early 1990s. Most of the world’s population joined the free flow access of information, technology and wealth. People living on pennies a day suddenly were earning a dollar or two dollars a day.
Globalization, defined by Merriam-Webster as the integration of free trade, free flow of capital and the tapping of cheaper foreign labor markets on a global scale, has been a key factor in adjusting food production. According to David Everitt, a retired executive for John Deere, as people increase earnings due to globalization, they will spend more money on food.
“Food is one of the first things people spend money on,” Everitt said. “As they develop their wealth, they will spend more money on a higher order diet and more complex proteins. Today they might have a rice-based diet, but they would like to have a chicken-based diet. That takes three times as much grains, so globalization increases food demand exponentially, not just arithmetically.”
Everitt was the speaker for Kansas State University’s College of Engineering Eyestone Distinguished Lecture Series on March 11. He is a 1975 graduate of K-State in industrial engineering and retired as president of John Deere’s Agriculture and Turf Division in 2012. With John Deere, he worked internationally with farmers of all sizes and specialties, which he discussed as part of his lecture on “Combining business objectives, appropriate technology and social support programs to help feed a hungry world.”
In addition to globalization, Everitt said several other factors and challenges should be considered in feeding the world. Lack of water availability and other limited natural resources are concerns now and for the future, especially as the world population is expected to reach 9 billion people by 2050.
Advancements in technology, more labor and precision agriculture that allows increased crop yields through a higher density of planting per acre are important, he said, as is aiding small farmers in developing countries.
The importance of small farmers
As the population continues to grow, Everitt said, producing more food would fall on the hands of many small landholder farmers, as small farmers today generate about half of the food in the world.
“They are a huge component in feeding the world today,” Everitt said. “They have to be part of the game tomorrow to be successful, and we need to increase their productivity just as well as we do the large-scale farmers.”
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