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Buckeye Farm News
Agriculture is a complex industry operating in a complex global marketplace. Consider some of these issues raised by experts at American Farm Bureau’s annual meeting.
World Hunger: Outgoing U.S. Agriculture Secretary Ed Schafer said the United States must help other countries put agriculture on more stable footing to feed the 70 million people who join the world’s population every year. Improving agriculture across the globe “can bring peace to this world,” he said.
Biotech: If the European Union doesn’t accept biotech food and feed, it won’t be able to support livestock and would need to import meat from animals fed biotech crops in the United States or elsewhere. That’s according to EU official Dan Rotenberg, who said European attitudes about biotechnology have been shaped by one-sided, anti-biotech arguments from the environmental group Greenpeace, which wields heavy influence.
Trade: Mexico and Canada together buy seven times more goods per year from the United States than China, and the rate of growth to NAFTA (North American Free Trade Agreement) partners has been more than double that of non-NAFTA partners, according to Chris Leggett, with the Canadian Embassy. Eighty percent of Canada’s trade is with the United States, and trade between the two nations is valued at about $535 billion per year, he said.
Economy: Former U.S. Sen. Bill Bradley said America’s core economic problem is that “we don’t save enough, both individually and as a nation.” To keep up with spending, the nation borrows from non-Americans at a rate of about $4 billon per day, he said.
Federal Budget: Entitlement programs such as Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security now take 42 percent of the $1.3 trillion federal budget, according to a panel of experts. And there are bigger strains ahead, they said. By 2047, the segment of the population that is 65 and older will jump from the 2007 number of 13 percent to more than 20 percent. Also in 2007, health care costs absorbed approximately 5 percent of the Gross Domestic Product. Based upon current projections, they will amount to more than 20 percent by 2047.
Climate Change: Half of the existing offsets to greenhouse gasses come from the agriculture and forestry industries, and that deserves acknowledgement, said Dave Miller of the AgraGate Climate Credits Corporation. “A lot of people think that what we do in farming and forestry should be offered up for free,” he explained. “We don’t agree. Farmers and foresters should be compensated for planting crops and for farming practices that keep carbon in the soil.”
Biofuels: China will go from using 4 million barrels of crude oil per day now to 10 million barrels a day by 2012, said Brooke Coleman of the New Fuels Alliance. “We need biofuels as a hedge against that,” he said.