PART 1: WORKING IN
In agriculture these days, the number “9 billion” evokes mixed emotions. It represents the estimated global population that our planet will reach in 2050, and presents an unprecedented challenge to everyone involved in the process of growing food. Using all the tools at our disposal, and adopting still more that are in development and will be available in the years ahead, growers will
“Seven out of 10 farmers said they rely on retailers most for validating and informing purchase decisions.”
be under pressure to increase yields, maximize fertilizer/crop protection inputs, improve efficiency and maintain a high level of environmental stewardship all at the same time.
The challenge is great and the rallying cry for improving production agriculture to fight global hunger has been sounding loud and clear in recent years from manufacturers and trade associations. But just like the real wars our soldiers fight every day, the war on hunger will be won in the trenches. Working in partnership with growers, agricultural retailers will play a key role “on the ground” in the fight to end global hunger.
“Global food demand will grow not just because of the addition of another 2 billion people over the next 40 years, but also because of
changes in diets as many people begin to demand more meat,” explains Daren Coppock, president of the Agricultural Retailers Association, Washington, DC. “Since there is very little additional farmland that can be brought into production, and severe constraints on available fresh water supplies, the key to meeting this demand will be productivity – producing more on the same land area with no additional water in most cases. With their ability to bring input products, services and expertise together in one place, ag retailers will play a vital supporting role in agriculture’s ability to meet this challenge.”
Growers themselves have indicated that the retailer plays an important part in helping them achieve their goals. According to a 2012 survey of growers conducted by American Business Media’s Agri Council, seven out of 10 farmers said they rely on retailers most for validating and informing purchase decisions, further confirming the retailer’s role as a trusted advisor.
As manufacturers research and roll out new technology in anticipation of higher food demand, the ag retailer will be uniquely positioned and ready to help farmers integrate them into their operations.
Monsanto, which has made an ambitious commitment to increase average yields, emphasizes the impact agronomy will have.
“Our commitment is to help farmers double yields over the 30 year interval of 2000-2030 by employing
improved seeds through advanced breeding techniques, the use of new biotech traits and the application of a range of new agronomic practice improvements,” says Michael Doane, Monsanto’s vice president for sustainable agriculture. “Things like better planting techniques, seed treatments or precision placement of nutrients – all to boost yields. Agronomic practices will play a major part in achieving that goal.”
Dave Coppess, executive vice president of sales and marketing at Heartland Coop, West Des Moines, IA, says that the retailer has embarked on a vision plan aimed at taking the business through the next 20 years.
“As a farmer owned business we see ourselves as an extension of the farm, helping the whole production process incorporate clinical expertise and information management, and help farmers do what they cannot do individually,” says Coppess.
Crop planning and grain management are key services they deliver. They also provide infrastructure and operational dynamics that deliver products and services to growers in a timely manner, he adds.
There are still plenty of challenges ahead, including improving optimum nutrient recommendations that best balance crop needs and environmental impact. But retailers are ready to help growers fight global hunger by providing information, infrastructure and intelligence. This will lead to gradual improvements in productivity and efficiency that US agriculture will require to meet the challenge of the growing global population.