Anheuser-Busch Briefing Center, U.S. Chamber of Commerce
1615 H St NW, Washington, D.C.
Registration and Breakfast: 8:00 a.m.-8:30 a.m.
The United States is the undisputed world leader in agricultural production today. Yet as we look toward the coming decades, we see that the agricultural sector faces a series of challenges, from new pests, pathogens, and invasive plants to the efficient use of water to growing safe and nutritious food under an ever-changing global environment.
Meeting these challenges requires a renewed commitment to research, innovation, and technological development in agriculture. Private industry will continue to play an important role in meeting these challenges in areas directly related to commercial developments and commodities. However, many of the developments necessary to meet these challenges are public goods and are not easily monetized. As such, these challenges require a strong public commitment to agricultural research, one that fosters a culture of innovation and excellence to address some of the greatest threats to America’s long term prosperity and security.
A panel of scientific and technology advisers to President Obama warned that the nation risks losing its longstanding supremacy in food production because research in agriculture has not kept up with new challenges, such as climate change; depleted land and water resources; and emerging pests, pathogens, and invasive plants. The president’s Council of Advisers on Science and Technology urged a commitment of $700 million in additional money for new agricultural research. As the panel stated in its report, “Our most important conclusion is that our nation’s agricultural research enterprise is not prepared to meet the challenges that U.S. agriculture faces in the 21st century.”
The National Intelligence Council's (NIC) Global Trends Report points out that technological advances will be required to accommodate an increasing demand for resources owing to global population growth and economic advances in today’s underdeveloped countries. Such advances can affect the food, water, and energy nexus by improving agricultural productivity through a broad range of technologies encompassing precision farming and genetically modified (GM) crops for food and fuel.
Genetically modified crops are especially key to meeting the challenge of providing sufficient and affordable food and fuel from plant crops for a world with an expanding population and a changing climate.
According to the Global Trends report, “Transgenic technologies—which enable the transfer of genes from one plant species to another to produce a plant with new or improved traits—hold the most promise for achieving food security in the next 15-20 years.”
Precision agriculture also holds promise for increasing crop yields by reducing the use of inputs such as seed, fertilizer, and water. Advancements in this area also minimize the negative environmental impacts of farming and improve the quality of crops. “Micro-irrigation technology . . . is likely to be the key technology for improving agricultural, water management because it delivers a highly water-efficient solution.”
Water management will also be critical for achieving global food security because agriculture today requires irrigation for 40% of its production and consumes approximately 70% of global freshwater supplies.
A recent article on American manufacturing summarizes the dynamic future of agriculture equally well:
“Over the next 15 years, the McKinsey Global Institute projects that 1.8 billion people—mainly in developing economies—will join the global consuming class, bringing the total number of people with disposable income to around 4 billion and raising annual consumption to $64 trillion. By 2025, we project that emerging markets will account for fully half of global consumption. These new consumers will demand everything from mobile phones to soft drinks, expanding markets for established manufacturers that can figure out how to compete for these new customers.”
To get a sense as to where these innovations are going and how America can service this growing consumer base, visit us on the morning of December 19th for our latest Business Horizon Series event, Agriculture: Growing Innovation & Opportunities. Thanks to a stellar set of guests, we’ll explore how America’s agriculture community continues to feed an ever growing global population while at the same time supporting American job creation and competitiveness.