Every year, many agriculture editors try to pick or predict what to expect for the new year. With volatile markets and the global uncertainties on the micro and macroeconomic levels, predicting what could happen is a real guess. However, picking trends seems to be a safer longer-lasting venture. So, here are the top 10 buzzwords and topics to watch for in 2012.
1. Sustainability. This term became a huge buzzword for 2011 as numerous national and international groups presented studies and data on the need for sustainable agriculture production methods. Many crop protection companies and ag industry associations used the information to promote the topic frequently. For example, this topic was the theme of the 2011 Agricultural Retailers Association's conference and expo. This term is likely not going to go away or lose momentum in 2012.
2. Water. Issues surrounding the use, quality and regulations of water will likely heat up in 2012. Challenges to the Clean Water Act, the use of National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (NPDES) permits and numeric nutrient criteria in water ways will all be hot topics for retailers this year. As seen at the ARA convention in Boca Raton, Fla., that state is already seeing how regulations can quickly spread outside of state borders to other states. Watch for more regulations and possibly lawsuits over water.
3. Weather. This was also a huge issue in 2011. With a second year of La Nina impacting the United States, weather patterns are likely to continue to be volatile and unpredictable. Although a second year of La Nina is not supposed to be as rough as the first year, challenging conditions are likely. Preparing for extremes is a good bet.
4. "Nitrogen Cascade. This term was introduced to attendees of the 2011 ARA conference and expo by Jonathan Kaplan, senior policy specialist, Natural Resources Defense Council. He said this was a term NRDC was starting to use to refer to the cycle of reactive and non-reactive nitrogen in the environment. He said NRDC is concerned that humans are adding more reactive nitrogen to the environment than nature can absorb or convert. Watch for this terminology to gain traction.
5. Fertilizer. The use and price of fertilizer will continue trending as a hot topic this year. As developing countries begin to demand more fertilizer to feed growing middle classes, prices are likely to increase as demand increases. New mines, both brownfield and greenfield, are likely to make the news.
6. Social media. The social media revolution is likely to hit the agriculture business in a bigger way than ever in 2012. Retailers are beginning to see the benefits of using these tools for greater communication with clients and the greater agricultural community.
7. Smartphones and Apps for agriculture. The first Apps for smartphones designed specifically for agricultural uses made their introduction in 2011. These were the first, but expect many more in 2012. Both universities and companies will showcase and unveil these tools for both retailers and farmers.
8. The year 2050. Reports of a skyrocketing global population by 2050 made headlines throughout 2011. Ag-related companies picked up on the number and began stressing the need for improved technologies to reach sufficient food production by this deadline. Expect much more about reaching this goal.
9. Volatility. Market and business volatility dominated many retailers' minds in 2011, but as the markets proved in 2011, the volatility trend isn't going away any time soon.
10. Biodiversity. This term hasn't been on the radar of many outside of the organic world. However, at the end of 2011, the United Nations named 2011-2020 as the decade of biodiversity. As we've seen with sustainability and 2050, this word will receive increasing publicity.