By Richard Keller, AgProfessional editor
As questions continue to surround feeding the world's population by the year 2030, most economists suggest the U.S. will be a major supplier of that food. Agriculture more than ever will be a strength to the gross national product of the U.S. in 2030.
But the total power of the U.S. economy will be dramatically less important than other countries of the world by 2030, according to at least one predictor.
In the next 40 years, a global power shift will see today's leading economic countries drop from having 80 percent of the world's income to 35 percent, according to John Wolfensohn, former World Bank president.
As population and gross domestic product grows in countries such as China and India, they will assume a larger role in relationship to the United States and Europe. "There will be a monumental shift of economic power. It's not just a modernization trend, but a fundamental change in the world balance," Wolfensohn said during a presentation at Stanford University. Wolfensohn stepped down from World Bank leadership in 2005 but continues to provide consultant analysis.
By 2030, two-thirds of people in the world's middle class will be Chinese, Wolfensohn said, although he is not quoted as giving any explanation of whether middle class in China is comparable to middle class in the U.S., Germany or other currently developed countries.
My contention is that even if overall buying power income for the U.S. workforce decreases, the workforce in agricultural production will not be impacted nearly as negatively. The U.S. will always have some of the best agricultural production land in the world, and as demand for food rises with the increasing world population, agricultural jobs will not decrease in value. Per person agricultural income compared to the rest of the world will remain strong, according to the economists and indicators I have monitored.
Wolfensohn noted that many more students from China and India travel to the United States to study, rather than the other way around. My experience is that agricultural degrees are some of the major areas of study for these students. In 2007, just 11,200 Americans studied in China. That year more than 110,000 Chinese were studying in the United States, Wolfensohn said.
The developing countries can learn ways to modernize and improve their agricultural production, but quality land and water are still limiting factors. America's best asset will continue to be its crop land.
A world population of nearly 8.5 billion by 2030 will eat a lot of food, and the U.S. will still be a leading supplier resulting in supply and demand pricing that earns U.S. farmers, ranchers and ag industry workers their continued middle class or better incomes.