Considering Agriculture's Next 30 years

Published in the February 2009 Issue Published online: Feb 28, 2009
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Public policy organization Farm Foundation has released a new report outlining major challenges and issues agriculture will confront in providing food, fiber and energy to a growing world over the next 30 years.

"Global population is expected to increase by one-third by 2040. Increasing incomes, particularly in developing countries, may bring changes in dietary preferences and greater demand for agriculture to provide food and energy," says Farm Foundation President Neilson Conklin.

All this will increase pressure on and competition for natural resources at a time when the impacts of climate change on production systems are not yet fully understood, he adds.

"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," Conklin says.

"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 new Farm Foundation report, The 30-Year Challenge: Agriculture's Strategic Role in Feeding and Fueling a Growing World, 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.

The report highlights key issues public and private decision makers may need to consider as they address the challenges of feeding a growing world.

"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," Conklin said.

The full report and an executive summary are available at


According to the Farm Foundation website, the organization "serves as a catalyst for sound public policy by providing objective information to foster deeper understanding of issues shaping the future for agriculture, food systems and rural regions. Farm Foundation does not lobby or advocate."