Tuesday, January 31, 2012

No Dooms Day in Ag

Recently I watched a TV show on the History Channel that had four gentlemen self-titled Prophets of Doom. Yes, I know just the title of this show should have given me some insight as to the uplifting nature of the material. The four "experts" were predicting just how and when the US would crumble and fall.

While I somewhat agreed with many of the ideas covered i.e. too much reliance on credit, too little worrying about water and too much dependence on fossil fuels. However, there was one major factor that these clairvoyants failed to see. The United States has been, throughout its history, very much an innovator, problem solver and survivor.

One "expert" took aim at agriculture. His assertion was that we were in over our heads and that if fossil fuels were taken away, we could not function. On the surface, he may appear to be correct. His theory was that we relied heavily on fuel for our machinery, natural gas for our fertilizer and petroleum for our pesticides. Because of those elements we had made our soil unproductive and without fossil fuels we would starve.

What he missed were our better understanding of science and technology. We now understand the importance of organic matter and soil structure. Innovations like no-till have led to a re-building of our top soil. Because of this we have the ability to grow more crops with less fertilizer. We will continue to use less and less fertilizer as the science and technology get better.

This "prophet" also bemoaned our reliance on herbicide made from fossil fuels. Because of advanced technology, namely those labeled gmo, we are far less reliant on herbicide. We use much less chemicals than just a few years prior and that trend will continue to decrease.

While we are on the subject of gmo let me point out that we are also seeing the introduction of drought tolerant crops. One "expert" also spoke about the risk of running out of water. I also see this as an impending crisis, but those of us in ag are doing our part to lessen our usage. We are working to more reliable produce food in an unreliable environment.

While we face many potential crisis I am proud of the work all of us in agriculture are doing to insure a safe, abundant supply of food and fiber. Agriculture has always rose up to meet the challenge. Challenges given to us by an ever growing world population. I see no reason to think we cannot keep up, if we are allowed to do what we do best, innovate and create new technologies. That, is why I am the proud producer of the food we all need, and even prouder that I am one of many.

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