Source: Farm Foundation

By the year 2040 the world's population is forecast to reach almost 9 billion people, about one-third greater than today. Incomes are rising, particularly in many developing nations, bringing changes in dietary preferences and greater demand for agricutlure to provide food and energy. All this will increase pressure on and competition for natural resources at a time when the impacts of climate change on agricultural production systems are not yet fully understood.

The new Farm Foundation report, "The 30-Year Challenge: Agriculture's Strategic Role in Feeding and Fueling a Growing World," examines issues agriculture and policy makers may face in addressing the challenge of providing food, fiber and energy to a growing world.

The report was developed with input from a diverse set of agriculture and agribusiness leaders, government agency representatives and academics. The report identifies six major challenges that may impact agriculture's ability to provide feed, fiber and energy to a growing world: global financial markets and recession; global food security; global energy security; climate change; competition for natural resources, and global economic development.

"U.S. agriculture alone cannot feed a growing world. However, with its rich endowment of agricultural resources and its leadership in technology, the United States will play a critical role in determining if the world will meet this 30-year challenge," said Farm Foundation President Neil Conklin. "Given the right tools and incentives, we are confident the world's agriculture producers and agribusinesses will rise to the challenge. But those incentives are heavily influenced by public policy. It is not clear that today's policies - designed to deal with issues of the last century - will provide appropriate tools and incentives to address the 30-year challenge."

The report was released Dec. 4, at the Farm Foundation conference of the same name. The conference was designed not only to introduce the report but through the various presentations, to spur additional thinking and discussion about the 30-year challenge. Conference presenters added their own voices to the issues, expanding on concerns higlighted in the report and identifying new ones.

"Farm Foundation has a 75-year commitment to objectivity, fostering constructive debate that is essential to sound public policy development in a democracy," Conklin said. "It is appropriate that Farm Foundation be the catalyst to spur all stakeholders to begin discussions on the 30-year challenge. The need is real and well recognized. The world stage is set for new directions and solutions. This is what one project participant termed 'a generational opportunity' to begin new discussions on public policies for the 21st century."

Farm Foundation is directing and leading this project. The foundation acknowledges additional financial support from the Alliance for Abundant Food and Energy, the American Farm Bureau Federation, the National Corn Growers Assocaition, the National Pork Producers Council and United Egg Producers.

The Dec. 4 conference was part of the Food and Agricultural Policy Summit. The three-day summit was a collaboration of Farm Foundation and Farm Journal Media.

Click here to read the executive summary. For the full report, click here.