If you ask someone what an American farm looks like today, chances are, if they don’t come from a farming background or a rural community, they will likely paint you a picture of the idyllic red barn set on a beautiful green pasture where livestock graze and a dusty tractor sits. Unfortunately, as more and more people move into urban areas and are removed from agriculture, this seemingly utopian view of a “modern” farm does not compare to the real pressures facing today’s farmers and producers.
Today, one American farm can feed 165 people annually in the United States and abroad, compared to around 26 people in 1960. That number is expected to increase, as the world will need to produce anywhere from 70-100 percent more food in the coming years to meet the food needs of a population that is expected to triple by 2050. With the earth boasting a finite amount of arable land that can be used for growing crops and farmers and producers facing a changing climate, the agricultural community looks to advanced technologies to help them become more efficient so they can do more with less.
In the animal food industry, some efficiencies have been gained over the years through better animal genetics and better feed formulas, which reduce producers’ costs while improving the output of meat, dairy or fish products. For example, the average dairy cow today can produce 100 pounds of milk with 40 percent less feed than it did 40 years ago. Compared to the 1940s, hens today require a little over half the amount of feed previously needed to produce a dozen eggs. The agricultural community still needs access to advanced technologies and modern medicines that allow them to enhance animal health, bolster the food supply and preserve natural resources.
At the American Feed Industry Association, we recognize that consumers may not understand all the ins and outs of agriculture – and that’s OK – that’s our job! But, what we guard against are those who step in and try to block access to technology based on incorrect information. We value scientific research that fosters innovation in agriculture so more people have access to affordable and healthy food products and work to educate policymakers about the science so they can make more informed decisions when it comes to agricultural technologies.