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Great time to be farming

Great time to be farming thumbnail

This is a great time to be involved in the agricultural industry for several reasons, including the expanding wealth of many countries.

Interesting events occurred in 1970, said Lowell Catlett, regents professor, New Mexico State University.

“That was the year the U.S. became the world’s first $1 trillion economy and the whole world produced $4 trillion,” he said. “The U.S. produced 25 percent of the world’s output.”

The world’s population was at 3.6 billion in 1970, Catlett said during a presentation at the Corn Strategies event hosted by Wyffels Hybrids.

“Although we did quite nicely in the U.S., we could not provide the 2,450 calories to 3.6 million people.” he said. “That’s what the average person needs to have normal body weight maintenance.”

In 1970, the second largest economy in the world was the United Kingdom at $250 billion, he reported.

“China, India and Brazil had half of the world’s population, but they produced less than the United Kingdom,” he said.

The U.S. hit another mark in 2013 when it became the world’s first $17 trillion economy, Catlett said.

“The world produced $70 trillion, which was the largest output ever on the planet, and the U.S. is still about 25 percent of the world’s output,” he said.

By 2013, China became the second largest economy in the world.

“Now half of the world’s population is richer than anytime in history and that’s why it’s the best time to be in agriculture,” Catlett said. “If you’re just basically getting by, the first thing any culture does with more money is change your diet and you want more meat protein.”

Hungry Planet

Food production must continue to increase as the world’s population rises.

“A population of 9 billion people by 2050 is a forecast,” Catlett said.

“If the world doesn’t grow any more, just the income alone means we have to increase meat protein output by 50 percent,” he said. “If the population grows another couple billion people, we have to double meat output.”

However, Catlett said, it won’t be possible to feed a growing population with pastoral agriculture.

“I love pastoral agriculture, beautiful dairy cattle on beautiful green grass, chewing their cud,” he said. “Except it won’t feed a hungry world.”

“The only way we’ll do that in meat protein is with intensive animal operations,” he said.

One benefit of intensive systems, Catlett said, is improved feed efficiency.

“We have pork operations today that are as efficient as poultry operations were in 1970,” he added.

“The most efficient pork operation in the world feeds 1.3 pounds of feed to get a pound of pork,” he reported. “That was the best poultry operation in 1970.

“We have better efficiency of feed, the best animal health and the smallest impact on the environment with intensive animal operations,” he said, “And that means we are going to need a lot of corn and soybeans to make it happen.”

Ten years ago, Catlett said, there were 2 billion people in the world in poverty that lived on less than $1.25 per day.

“Today that number is at 750 million people,” he reported. “That’s still too many, but it’s the smallest amount of people as a percentage of the population in poverty, and it’s the biggest drop in poverty ever recorded in history.”

As consumers have additional money available to buy food, Catlett said, that creates more opportunities for the agricultural industry.

“Less than half of 1 percent of the population has any form of Celiac disease, which is gluten intolerance,” he said. “But gluten-free products are now 2 percent of the food sector because people have enough money to buy these products.”

In 1970, Catlett said, organic food didn’t exist.

“Now it’s 4 percent of the food sector,” he said.

“The population is at 7.2 billion people and agriculture now produces on average 2,900 calories for every man, woman and child,” Catlett reported. “That’s why the world needs agriculture because we can double the population and still produce food like crazy.

“Get ready because it’s going to be a world that rapidly changes,” he predicted.

Change Coming

Catlett expects the millennial generation will change the face of agriculture more than any previous generation.

“This is a generation that is about 75 million people or so and they have never known a life without a cell phone,” he noted. “They’re real good at social networking.”

Millennials see the world a little differently, he said.

“That’s good for us because they’re going to drive the next revolution in agriculture,” he predicted.

Catlett’s father was part of the mechanical revolution, then came the chemical revolution and now, he said, the information revolution is happening.

“And information is second nature to the millennials,” he said.

“We are not only feeding a hungry world, in the last decade we’ve planted more trees in America than we have harvested and we now have a cleaner set of rivers and cleaner air,” Catlett said.

“We have a world that is getting warmer with more carbon dioxide,” he said. “But I can feed a world that is warmer because plants love to suck up carbon dioxide and give the world oxygen.”

As seed companies have continued to develop new corn hybrids, Catlett said, farmers now are able to grow corn 100 miles north of where corn did not grow before.

“There has never been a better time to be in agriculture,” he stressed. “Get ready because it’s about food, ecology and health and you own it.”

38 Comments on "Great time to be farming"

  1. MSN Fanboy on Fri, 24th Jul 2015 6:43 pm 

    There has never been a better time to be in agriculture,…

    They dont know how right they are,,, lol

  2. dave thompson on Fri, 24th Jul 2015 7:29 pm 

    How is this going in California where upwards of 50 to 100% of our food stuffs come from?

  3. apneaman on Fri, 24th Jul 2015 7:45 pm 

    Another greedy, delusional, cheery picked, oversimplified, cheerleading piece.

    High CO2 Makes Crops Less Nutritious
    Climate change could increase deficiencies in zinc and iron, new study suggests.

  4. apneaman on Fri, 24th Jul 2015 7:53 pm 

    Crop pests advancing with global warming

    Fungi and insects migrate towards the poles at up to 7 kilometres per year.

    “The changing climate is raising major concerns about food security in many countries, and pests may contribute to making matters worse. “Our defences, pesticides and fungicides, are being asked to deal with larger and larger numbers of pests and diseases, each of which can evolve fungicide or pesticide resistance,” says ecologist Dan Bebber of the University of Exeter, UK, who led the new study. Expansion of pest populations into new territories increases the risk that these organisms will escape our control.

    Among the biggest threats are fungi and oomycetes, similar but distinct groups of microbes, which cause plant diseases. Several highly virulent strains of fungi have emerged in recent years around the world, and the oomycete Phytophthora infestans remains a persistent problem even 168 years after causing the great Irish potato famine4.”

  5. Pennsyguy on Fri, 24th Jul 2015 8:21 pm 

    In the decades after WWII, most of the farmland around Pittsburgh was converted into shopping malls, an airport and housing developments. It seemed like a good idea at the time.

  6. MSN Fanboy on Fri, 24th Jul 2015 8:22 pm 

    Exactly Apneaman, youre proving the article to be true.

    Just think of all that supply destruction, prices will go through the roof.

    Therefore its a good time to invest in farming. Especially in a Famine lol

    Dontcha know its called neoliberal economics???

    Others may call it suicide lol

  7. Davy on Fri, 24th Jul 2015 8:42 pm 

    Dave said “How is this going in California where upwards of 50 to 100% of our food stuffs come from?” Dave I agree with your humor but just wanted to set the facts right on California.

    California ranks number 1 with a total of 32BIL or 13.20% of total US output.

  8. dave thompson on Fri, 24th Jul 2015 8:56 pm 

    Thanks Davy good to see some one paying attention. Depending on what crop it is, California provides food that the US will be hard pressed to replace if or when it goes away.

  9. BC on Fri, 24th Jul 2015 9:18 pm 

    Latifundia or neo-feudalism/neo-manorialism.

  10. Makati1 on Fri, 24th Jul 2015 9:36 pm 

    Another ad for Big Ag, paid for by Monsanto.

    It appears that soon, Cali will not be the countries food basket. The Midwest will be desert and the farms that are left will have to do it without chemical additives or reliable weather. Good luck with that. Most soil is depleted of the minerals that keep you healthy and can barely grow weeds without industrial aid. Not to mention water disappearing all over the world.

    The idea of farms as industry is last century. This century will be permaculture and local markets. When the collapse happens and millions are looking for food, a big farm will have a bulls-eye painted on it. All those steaks just walking around that big field at night…lol.

  11. apneaman on Fri, 24th Jul 2015 10:16 pm 

    MSN even the big AG industrial complex can’t do shit if they run out of water. Who knows how much longer it can go on but their problems are many and layering on the complexity of band-aide fixes can only last so long. Don’t forget that they do not exist without massive tax payer subsidies either. Not a bright future there with an ever shrinking tax base. Losing a majority of Californian agriculture would be painful and make for less quality nutrition, but I do not think it is deadly. Lose a significant portion of the grain belt and watch the shit storm. The average America is fueled on corn, wheat and soy – they are in everything. And of course we all know big AG’s reliance on fossil fuels and chemicals.

    The Great Plains’ invisible water crisis

  12. apneaman on Fri, 24th Jul 2015 11:21 pm 

    GAO Report Sees Climate Risks to Army Corps Projects

  13. PrestonSturges on Sat, 25th Jul 2015 12:14 am 

    We still have hundreds of acres of river bottom land going for auction, and maybe the nearby hunting club will buy it for deer hunting if nothing else.

  14. Makati1 on Sat, 25th Jul 2015 3:16 am 

    Preston, those deer will disappear the first year that the food system collapses. So will every other edible plant, fish, bird and animal. Have you tried ground hog or possum? I live in a city with ZERO pigeons. Know why? They are good to eat. LOL

  15. Davy on Sat, 25th Jul 2015 6:09 am 

    HA HA, The Makster is lose and wild. “Lose a significant portion of the grain belt and watch the shit storm. The average America is fueled on corn, wheat and soy – they are in everything.” Makster it is your Asian overshoot of 4BIL people that need these food more than the Americas. The Americas keep your Asia fed. You yourself are going to regret your words in your 100MIL overpopulated Philippines island. We will have food because we can just do away with exports in a collapse. You will be the food Mak. All you will be good for is stew meat being old and frail.

  16. shallowsand on Sat, 25th Jul 2015 6:53 am 

    This article is not timely. The commodity collapse also hit grains. Grains have rebounded some due in part to, ironically too much rain.

    In any event, after a few very strong, if not record years, the US farmer in the Midwest earned much less in 2014 and will have an even worse year in 2015, with lower yields and unrelentingly high input costs.

    Funny how petroleum based fertilizer prices have not fallen.

  17. paulo1 on Sat, 25th Jul 2015 8:19 am 

    “said Lowell Catlett, regents professor, New Mexico State University.”

    nuf said…a ‘professor telling us about farming’. (And how great it is)

    I have a 16 acre ‘homestead farm’. It is freaking hard work. I love producing for our family, but there it stops. Every year I get people asking to buy some of my ‘meat birds’, and every year I say no. It is too much work for the return. I used to sell enough christmas trees, (when I worked in town and had free transportation built in), which basically paid my taxes. But now? Not a chance. They are reverting to the woodlot. I have friends who were farmers and in the past relatives were big dairy farmers. In all cases they have and had a town job to support the farm. It is impossible to compete with big ag and always will be unless you live in a subsistence bartering culture.

    I joke to my friends who admire my large potato patch…(with big fence to keep the elk out)…”Those, my friend, are the most expensive spuds known to mankind”. But we love them.

    The land I do have is mainly my version silver and gold bars. It is a tangible asset/prep. It is fenced, posted with no trespassing signs, and I will continue to feel the satisfaction of knowing it will provide heat and basic foodstuffs in case of decline. If family need a place to live, I can build a small house for them or move in a good modular or pre-fab….maybe a tiny house. It does not or never will provide a survivable income.

    Equipment used right now on property: BCS walk-behind tractor with many implements, a Belarus Titan 4wdrive tractor (very small one)with plows and blade for clearing snow. I use it mainly to haul wood. Chainsaws and every hand tool known to be used. Mostly they sit in sheds to keep out of the weather when not in use.

    Having said all that last night we had sockeye salmon, potato sald with all the trimmings, peas and pea pods, and home made wine….all produced by us.

  18. apneaman on Sat, 25th Jul 2015 8:46 am 

    Paulo, did you catch the salmon? It is the season if I remember correctly. Do you think or know you can grow enough to survive without a tractor?

  19. ghung on Sat, 25th Jul 2015 9:10 am 

    Ap: “Do you think or know you can grow enough to survive without a tractor?”

    That’s the experiment I’m deep into this summer: Subsistence farming beyond fossil fuels. Includes intensively-farmed raised beds tilled with a solar-powered electric tiller; home made fish emulsion fertilizer using fish from our pond, along with compost; goats for meat, milk, mowing and fertilizer; year ’round growing in the high tunnel greenhouse (as long as plastic is available, plan to store extra); gravity irrigation when the solar pumps eventually fail; drying and canning for food preservation; numerous varieties of perennial fruits, nuts, berries, along with wild-grown food sources….

    Did I mention it’s just an experiment?

  20. paulo1 on Sat, 25th Jul 2015 9:11 am 

    Hey Apnea,

    Yes, we catch a lot of salmon. In fact, I provide salmon for about 3 families if it was added up. I went out the other day and caught 8, and back home in 50 minutes…and that included launching and retrieving the boat. (smallish 16′ boat I built with plans from Yesterday, it took 2 hours. I won’t go out again for a few days until the run comes back and the tides are right. The fish seem to come in waves, depending on the runs. I also don’t fish on weekends leaving the ramp for folks who work during the week.

    I usually wait until August to get our fish but we are planning a big party and I needed the salmon for the barbecue.

    We could grow our garden without a tractor, but the work would be very hard and I am 60. Mostly, it is the undergrowth and weeds in our temperate climate. If you don’t keep growing land cleared here it will revert and be unuseable in a year or two and you have to start all over. We replace natural organics with compost, manure, fall rye, etc. I sometimes use a little 6-8-6 commercial fertilizer as well.

    My wife maintains the house garden and greenhouses. I do the heavier stuff and all building.

  21. kanon on Sat, 25th Jul 2015 9:25 am 

    Another ad for Big Ag, paid for by Monsanto. Makati1 got this one right.

    This is part of a PR campaign to claim ownership of the “feed the world” issues and control the political agenda in favor of industrial agriculture. Instead, the subsidies should be going to organic and local farming.

  22. apneaman on Sat, 25th Jul 2015 9:48 am 

    ghung, IMO experimenting is the best way to learn. I’m always running little experiments. My latest was seeing what it would be like to eat like an impoverished 3rd world citizen. For one week I ate nothing but a max of two cups (uncooked) of scented rice with a few vegetables and tea. I lost six pounds and after a couple of days I had a modest reduction in the severity of my chronic pain condition. There was some discomfort and palate boredom, but that is to be expected after a life of abundance and super hype food stimuli. I may try a few days of fasting…..right after I finish that 2L of Moose Tracks ice cream I bought last night.

  23. ghung on Sat, 25th Jul 2015 9:54 am 

    kanon said: “Instead, the subsidies should be going to organic and local farming.”

    Many are. There’s a big push by the FSA (in our area anyway) to keep small producers on their farms, and to encourage new small farmers. More than a few grants, subsidies, micro-loans available to those who seek them out. I qualified for a grant this year to build a “High tunnel” greenhouse (a ‘hoop house’; passive solar, 72’x30′), which I completed (for the most part) last week. The government dudes are coming next week to inspect and finalise the grant for payout. The grant exceeds my building costs; surplus going to mulch, compost, plants, etc.

    I’ve taken several courses and workshops spearheaded by the farm services folks on things like small-scale rotational grazing, pasture management, growing mushrooms, high tunnel growing and construction, organic growing methods and certification, growing locally and sustainably, canning and preserving, crop selection and marketing, etc… All either free or for a very small fee. These are not only highly informative, but I meet like-minded people who share ideas, successes and failures; sort of a local hive-mind of sustainable small-scale farming.

    Things are happening that most of you don’t see (or may not care about), and I think parts of the government/ag dept understand the fragile nature and costs involved with our large-scale industrial ag systems.

    One of the State level coordinators gave a presentation about having to give money back to the Feds at year’s end because not enough folks were taking advantage of these grants. These programs are well managed with great oversight and plenty of assistance beyond the financial aspect; money well spent, IMO. Seems there aren’t enough folks willing to make the jump into small-scale agriculture, and big agriculture is ready and willing to suck those funds out of the coffers.

  24. apneaman on Sat, 25th Jul 2015 10:02 am 

    paulo, I love fishing and hunting – never did any salmon fishing though. For a number of years I grew up in the Elk valley in the East Kootenay’s then went back for summers as my cousins lived there. Winter was hockey, skiing and skidoo and the rest was fishing, hiking, hunting and dirt biking. Best times of my life. You’re in a good place.

  25. kanon on Sat, 25th Jul 2015 10:19 am 

    ghung — good luck to you, but your FSA subsidy program is barely a drop in the bucket. The subsidies are for financed GMO corn & soy on leased plots, plus food stamps to increase consumption and maintain prices.
    USDA’s total outlays for 2016 are estimated at $148 billion. Roughly 83 percent of outlays, about $123 billion in 2016, are associated with mandatory programs that provide services as required by law. The majority of these outlays include crop insurance, nutrition assistance programs, farm commodity and trade programs, and a number of conservation programs.

  26. Boat on Sat, 25th Jul 2015 10:35 am 

    My post was meant to be sarcastic. BC thinks the end crash has already started and we will have totally crashed in 6 months. Living in Houston there is no need to prep. Were all dead anyway. Since BC is such a believer I just assumed he had no need for money and could send me say $30,000 so I could go out with a bang.

  27. ghung on Sat, 25th Jul 2015 10:35 am 

    Nice experiment Ap. This time of year on the farm it’s all about getting enough calories to do the work. The last 3 months I’ve done extra manual labor getting this greenhouse built (did it all myself despite promises of help from the “busy” kids; seems our schedules didn’t jive). I’ll post pictures at some point. I’m pushing 58 and the body doesn’t recover as quickly,, and it’s been really hot when it isn’t raining. Grateful for plenty of solar-powered hot showers; therapy for tired muscles and bones. Life in the temperate rain forest. Anyway, I’m REALLY excited about the concept, which (as I’m doing it) is to eventually reduce the labor involved in producing a lot of food. As my wife exclaimed: “You’ve got a system going here baby; looks good!”

    Part of my ‘system’ involves a divide-and-conquer strategy: Ten 32’x4′ raised beds made of 4″ plastic sewer-and-drain pipe mulched with organic-grade paper mulch; cheap as well (4’x500′ roll is about $55 with shipping – plan to stockpile). Irrigation is solar-pumped drip on timers. The pipes can be filled with water as a heat sink during cold months.

    Those two steps will eliminate weeding and watering for the most part. The stakes holding the pipe in place are PVC pipe into which I can insert 1/2″ PVC hoops for winter cold frames (a lot of plastic, I know, but should last a long time). Temperature control is accomplished by simply rolling the sides and end doors up and down, though I plan to install a couple of solar-powered gable vents for really hot spells (already acquired at salvage).

    I’ve installed a weather station outside the structure with a companion temp/humidity sensor inside and solar radiation sensor; data-logging up at the house for situational awareness.

    Beyond planting, my work will involve mainly pruning, pest/disease control, monitoring and amending soil (planing on “fertigation” with fish emulsion), and producing compost from our bi-annual hay cuts. Seed/plant acquisition will be as always: what to plant and when. Lots of off-the-shelf knowledge out there. Our chicken run is adjacent to the garden and I’m sure the chickens will be glad to work the soil and compost whenever we aren’t growing (we have a very short Persephone Period here, about 2 weeks); another source of fertilizer.

    Great time to be farming, indeed.

  28. Boat on Sat, 25th Jul 2015 10:41 am 

    For you American haters. The US provides huge exports in corn and wheat yet we citizens pay a much higher price than those we export to. Why we subsidise the rest of the world I have no clue.

  29. ghung on Sat, 25th Jul 2015 10:59 am 

    @ kanon – I know, but, for the most part, I stopped giving a shit about our industrial food system and its highly-subsidised, highly-complex subsystems quite some time ago. That’s why I’m doing what I’m doing. Seems the only viable alternative,, and I certainly can’t reform what you decry, even if I wanted to. I can, in fact, reform the way I (and some others around me) get their food. My point is, there’s a small portion of the overall funding available to folks seeking those alternatives.

    Criticising the big picture in this country has become largely a waste of time and energy. DO SOMETHING ELSE.

    I don’t like the debt levels our society has achieved. Can’t fix that, but can avoid personal debt. Don’t like your country’s corporate overlords? Stop doing business with them whenever possible. Don’t like big banks? Join a small local bank or credit union. Don’t like slave labor making your cell phone? Lose the phone. Don’t like your tax dollars paying for wars-not-of-necessity? Reduce your taxable income. Don’t like how the food system is subsidised? Get some of that money for yourself and create your own food system……..

    Many of us don’t have many choices. Those who do; choose carefully. Bitching accomplishes nothing useful, IMO. Above all, lose the consumer mentality. We aren’t entitled to anything.

  30. paulo1 on Sat, 25th Jul 2015 11:33 am 

    Ghung this last reply/post of yours was bang on.

    It all goes back to one’s sphere of influence and accepting that change begins at home, first.

  31. Davy on Sat, 25th Jul 2015 1:05 pm 

    G-Man, very cool setup. I like the part of eliminating weeding. I just kicked my ass with 3 hours of weeding my grapes. I was away for 2 weeks and the crab grass took over. My hands are destroyed and I almost got too much heat. Morning started out nice but as soon as the sun came out it was miserable. Anyway, I like your setup but I have so many other projects going I don’t think I could swing something like that. In any case I copied and pasted the comment for future reference.

  32. ghung on Sat, 25th Jul 2015 1:21 pm 

    Yeah, Davy, thanks. The grant contract requires that I replant a 10 foot perimeter around the high tunnel in grass (soil conservation requirement, all that). The last thing I want growing against my greenhouse is more grass and weeds (got about 30 acres of that). I’m going out now to spread some hay and seed, but as soon as the grant comes through I’ll kill it and install a buffer of landscape fabric and mulch, along with some raised beds for asparagus and more blueberries.

  33. ghung on Sat, 25th Jul 2015 1:24 pm 

    … BTW: Paper mulch may work around your grapes:

  34. Davy on Sat, 25th Jul 2015 1:31 pm 

    G, going to check out paper mulch, thanks

  35. BobInget on Sat, 25th Jul 2015 2:55 pm 

    Dear Doctor Peakoil,
    I’m 80 years old, the Ball and Chain 67.
    Should the Little Women and I pack up our little farm and move further north?

    Our blueberry crop was the best in years but came two weeks early. Birds timing, thrown off.

    Now, wifey and I can up and move. Is it possible to stay well ahead of our old unfriendly insects?

    Will flesh eating black flies go north too?

    Signed, worn out from farming in Oregon

  36. apneaman on Sat, 25th Jul 2015 7:00 pm 

    80 percent of crops dead, 150 billion MNT buried in the ground

    “Approximately 80 percent of Mongolia’s crops have died this summer due to extreme drought across the country, according to board member of the Mongolian Plantation Union B.Erdenebat.

    Though the situation has reached a critical level, the Ministry of Industry and Agriculture has yet to take action, let alone announce to the public what is happening.”

  37. PrestonSturges on Sat, 25th Jul 2015 9:14 pm 

    We are looking at moving to my GF’s house in an area cold enough to have real winters (for now). It has about 6,000 sq ft of backyard facing south, former orchard.

  38. Makati1 on Sat, 25th Jul 2015 10:15 pm 

    Boat, my apologies if I misunderstood. Your sarcasm sounded so much like the serious comments some make on here, I read it wrong. Gotta keep the players straight … lol.

    I’m not a USA hater. I just like to counter the “rah rah, exceptionalist” BS that pours out of there all the time.

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