It’s unacceptable that people go to bed hungry in our country. Farmers go to bed tired from long days, but they end their work day with the satisfaction that what they’re doing puts food on our plates. Their goal, one that we all share, is that one day no one will go hungry in the United States or elsewhere in the world. We work every day to improve how we produce food, and are determined to turn this hope into a reality.
A fed future
Each new day and each innovation bring us one step closer to achieving our goal of feeding everyone. Over the years, as the number of farmers and arable land has decreased, technology has helped fewer farmers grow more crops on less land. In 1950, the average corn yield was 38 bushels per acre; it’s skyrocketed to as high as 176 bushels per acre today. The global population is expected to increase to 9.7 billion by 2050, and farmers and ranchers around the world will have to grow about 70 percent more food than we do now. It’s a challenge for sure, but we’re up for it.
Just as you use GPS in your car for directions to the new Trader Joe’s or your daughter’s soccer tournament, GPS is an important tool for farmers, too. We use it to make sure our seeds are precisely planted and the fertilizer is spread only where needed. This type of precision planting goes a long way toward ensuring we don’t waste fuel, seed, water, or fertilizer as we strive to produce more using less.
Other types of technology allow us to check the soil in several spots in a field, so we can tell if one area needs more water or less or other interventions. This also helps limit our use of pesticides to exactly where they’re needed and in just the right amounts. There are many more innovations to come to help farmers combat hunger one crop at a time. Once farmers and ranchers have full access to broadband, which the federal government and internet providers are working on, they’ll be able to download a wealth of data right from their tractor seats. On today’s farm, broadband is no longer a luxury, but a necessity.
On all fronts
Biotechnology and gene editing also show great promise in addressing hunger. As scientists further refine these technologies, they will be able to provide seeds that can better handle the stress of different climates, while needing less water and pesticides, which will further boost farmers’ productivity. Crops will be grown in areas of the world that are now barren. The technology is also being used to make food more nutritious (as is the case with soybean oil, which has less saturated fat and no transfat) and to address allergies, for example by producing wheat without gluten.
Growing food in a sustainable manner also helps us end hunger. Farmers are very aware that what we do on our land today will affect our ability to grow crops and raise animals for future generations. More farmers are using practices such as no-till farming and planting cover crops, which help to keep soil healthy. We are working to ensure that our great-grandparents’ land will be even more productive when our great-grandchildren are planting and harvesting. That’s how we’ll feed the world.
Yes, our farms and ranches are businesses, making complex decisions every day about the best way to be productive and both use and protect the resources on our land. But the bottom line for all farmers — the reason we end each day so proud of what we do — is feeding people. We welcome the opportunity to continuously improve as we strive to feed America and the growing number of families beyond our borders. Farmers and ranchers are using technologies like biotechnology and broadband-enabled precision farming to farm sustainably and fight hunger. If we keep an open mind to the ways that modern technology helps us reach our goals, we can and will end hunger together.
Zippy Duvall, President, American Farm Bureau Federation, [email protected]