Global agriculture; a pivotal era?


Bale stack on the downs…

World agriculture currently employs over a billion people representing over 40% of the world’s workforce working on 570 million individual farms. Think about that for a second. In the next 50 years it’s widely recognised these farmers will need to produce as much food as has been consumed over our entire human history. This means in the working life of my two young children we’ll need more grain than has been produced since the Egyptians, more fish than has been eaten to date and more litres of milk than from all the cows that have ever been milked so far. Farming has to intensify, scale-up and use new technologies to meet this challenge. How to achieve this with minimal cost to our climate, our biodiversity and our sustainability is the goal. Bad decisions by government organisations could lead us down the wrong path and the consequences of this would be nothing less than apocalyptic as nations self-destruct.

Within this backdrop I have been lucky to have had the opportunity to pursue a farming career at a pivotal time. In this social media age consumers are being given mixed and confusing messages about mainstream progressive agricultural production and more than ever all farmers have a responsibility to explain what they do and why they do it. We also all understand the over-riding directive to ensure we leave our farms in a better state for the next generation than we find them now and for family farms this is paramount. Being able to farm is a privilege and a blessing and this motivates me every day. Despite this I can’t help thinking storm clouds are gathering around us. Nationally Brexit has provided an unexpected shock to the system whilst globally the huge power of NGO’s is being used to drive political decision-making. Farmers are being battered by the winds of change and external threats from far beyond the farm gate are leaving their mark.

I fear that years of bountiful production and bulging ever full supermarket shelves has left the western world dangerously complacent about food availability. Behind the scenes farmers across the world are noticing more evidence of climatic breakdown and weather weirding. Reliable harvests are becoming the rarity not the norm and yield plateauing is widely acknowledged. Agricultural technological innovation is being vilified with a deliberate political push towards outdated practices in a climate of social media phobias. In the background the world population increases an incredible 220,000 people every day with the amount of land being used to produce the food for this burgeoning population ever diminishing. Governments strongly wish to have cheap affordable food for their populations but have few concerns about geographical  source in this globalized age. We are heading for a perfect storm and we had better make the right decisions real quick.