Given the need to double our food production in the next 30 to 40 years, we know we can do it if too many road blocks are not thrown in the way of today's productive farmers. At least three or more different forces can have an impact on our ability to produce what we will need.
These include what Mother Nature deals us in the way of weather, the continued actions of animal rights, environmental and anti-agriculture groups and the decline in support for agricultural research and education. While we haven't learned how to control the weather, we can do something about the animal rights and anti-agriculture groups and agricultural research.
While farmers locally have been fortunate as far as rain is concerned this summer, that is not true across the nation. Recent reports suggest that yields of corn will average 120 to 123 bushels or less an acre, the lowest since 1995.
Even with the carryover from last year and this year's harvest, it is predicted that we will have the tightest corn supply ever in this country. That is a concern because corn is used in so many different ways. We will feel the situation in some foods we buy at the store.
Low supplies of corn have caused high feed costs for dairy and livestock farmers. The price they have been getting for their milk has not been equal to their costs of production.
Bob Cropp, extension economist at the University of Wisconsin, says this is going to put a number of dairy farmers out of business unless the situation improves.
Locally, dairy farmers are getting about $3 a hundred pounds of milk less for their milk this year than last at this time. Lower milk prices and higher feed costs spell bad news for them.
Playing on people's emotions rather than looking at factual information, radical animal rights groups continue to be active. They are skillful at getting into livestock farms and other operations and making videos that are then altered to make acceptable farm practices look bad.
The largest group has a battery of attorneys looking for legislative ways to cause farmers to have to change acceptable practices that will cost them money. These changes can also cost us more for our food, reduce farm production and cause some farmers to go out of business.
It is also well-know that the ultimate goal of these animal rights groups it to get rid of all animal agriculture, get all animal products off our dinner table, stop all hunting and trapping and all medical research using animals.
Several anti-agriculture groups seem to get a lot of publicity. One example is a group calling themselves responsible physicians. Its stated agenda is to promote a vegan diet and oppose animal research. It also is definitely anti-dairy.
Agricultural research and education are most important to increasing and improving our food supply. Yet, public support for these programs has had an annual increase of less than 1 percent. Private agricultural research, which is important, has had an annual growth rate of just more than 1 percent.
Money spent on agricultural research has helped make our farmers and food system the best in the world.
Over the past 60 years, what the average U.S. household spends on food has dropped from just more than 22 percent to 9.5 percent of their budget. Money spent on research and agricultural education is a bargain for all of us.
Farmers, locally and elsewhere, work hard to produce a safe and abundant food supply for us. What they need to do is let consumers know that they are excellent caretakers of their animals and of the soil. Here is where our farm organizations need to step in and help tell the true farmer's story, better than they have been.
Parker is an independent agricultural writer and a voice for agriculture.