| 03.18.2018

Common ground — Agriculture is an important aspect of life for everyone


Agriculture is a practice that affects everyone. Whether it is the clothes you wear, the food you eat or the job you work, agriculture is part of your life.

Agricultural processes weren’t always so wide-reaching or efficient. It began approximately 23,000 years ago and continues to infiltrate our daily lives.

As the population continues to grow, the resources needed are not. Policy constraints are ever-constricting on agriculture, creating fewer opportunities for growth. And, agriculture is a major contribution to the United States’ economy.

Austin O’Neill | Argonaut

These are just a few reasons why the U.S. should increase agricultural production.

Agriculture is facing a serious need for growth of production. The world population continues to grow at an exponential rate, while land availability is decreasing just as fast.

According to the United Nations, approximately 83 million people are added to the world population every year, resulting in 9.8 billion people by the year 2050. As the population grows, the percentage of agricultural land over 35 years (1990 to 2015) decreased by five percent.

This is to be expected. There is only one option — land must be given up to create room for the growing population. However, there is only one solution — increased efficiency in production.

There is no one way to increase production, but a variety of ways. These solutions can range from GMOs to new farming technologies or new preventative measurements like pesticides and insecticides. Yet, even with these improvements, the largest roadblock remains policy constraints.

Policy constraints are very important and effective for increased accountability of the producers, safeguarding public resources and protecting consumers. These policies, however, are not black and white.

For producers, there must be incentives to produce most efficiently and at the highest quality, while not having adverse effects on public resources. Setting farmers aside, it can be incredibly difficult to get the product in the hands of a consumer. The agricultural industry needs chain modernization. If all steps in the supply chain are not accounted for, the consumer is only guaranteed a product with a higher price.

The incentives for producers can be created through policy for increased production of high-quality production and decreased adverse environmental reactions. Modernizing supply chains will increase efficiency and protect the consumer in terms of price and supply.

It is apparent that agriculture production must increase due to the growing population, and policy must be created to benefit all parties.

But if that isn’t enough of a reason to increase production, the numbers behind the farming are. The U.S. economy is booming with the influx of agriculture cash.

In 2015, the USDA Economic Research Service reported agriculture, food and related industries contributed $992 billion to the U.S. GDP. That constituted over 5 percent of the total GDP.

While America’s farms contributed only about one percent of GDP ($136.7 billion), the effect is felt in a variety of ways other than GDP. One of these ways is employment. Agriculture and related industries provide 11 percent of U.S. employment. With agriculture’s strong influence on the U.S. economy, it demonstrates the need for increased production and efficiency.

Whether you choose to support agriculture in all facets or only a few, it is crucial that everyone understands the necessity and importance of increasing agricultural production. Without the growth and evolution of agriculture, everyone will face a reality of higher prices, lower food availability and a loss of wealth for everyone.

Austin O’Neil can be reached at arg-opinion@uidaho.edu

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