The return of Food Day, with its second annual observance scheduled for today, is a timely reminder of the important road ahead for our food supply. The world’s population is growing at such a rapid clip – from the current seven billion to an estimated nine billion by 2050 – that its projected food production needs to double using less arable land, scarce water resources and in the midst of climate change. The U.N. FAO calculates that already there are more than 870 million people living at severe poverty levels without enough food to sustain themselves.
All of this brings challenges and opportunities for agriculture, which must work together to forge public policy and research agendas that will facilitate future needs. On one hand, farmers and ranchers must be prepared to help efficiently supply the world with a sustainable supply of high-quality food. On the other hand, farmers are serving a changing domestic market with more consumer interest in how food is produced and where it comes from. For some there is a perceived conflict on how to meet the simultaneous demand for a greater quantity of affordable food and satisfying high-end markets seeking locally grown, hand-crafted, artisan food goods.
We are very fortunate that American agriculture is so diverse. We have a wide variety of farm and ranch sizes utilizing stewardship practices and management plans that let farmers and ranchers choose the market channels they want to pursue which in turn provides abundant choice for consumers. As we observe Food Day today, let’s be grateful for all that farming and ranching does for each of us in our daily life!