The End of a Growing Population and More Agriculture News
Peak Global Population?
Food for a growing population – the phrase has become a mantra for all manner of farm groups, ag companies, environmentalists, policy makers, and others. The phrase is used to justify almost anything, from selling more technology to combating climate change, to changing global diets, to subsidizing commodity exports, to reducing food waste, and everything in between. But what if the global population is nearing its peak and facing a long decline?
National Geographic’s April edition takes an in-depth look at global populations trends and issues, and points to a growing consensus that the human population is likely to peak before the end of the century. Within the volumes of demographic data, fertility rates have been declining in many areas for decades as improvements in health care, sanitation, crop yields, and economic opportunity have increased. The data indicates that sometime between 2050 and 2100, the population will stop increasing and then begin to decline. “We are headed someplace new.”
The challenges will be dramatically different in different parts of the word. African countries such as Nigeria are still experiencing tremendous growth and will account for a large portion of population growth, while China has already entered a population decline and will be surpassed by India sometime this year. Managing an aging population with fewer working-age citizens is daunting. According to University of North Carolina demographer Yong Cai, “No country has ever solved this problem.”
The implications for agriculture (and other sectors) are quite profound. What policies will be appropriate when the need to increase yields and acreage are no longer relevant? What products should be grown, and where should they be grown? For example, some commentators suggest that freezing ag’s current footprint and growing less feed and more food should be an overarching policy goal. Whatever the answers may be, it is clear that the implications of population decline should become a part of the public discussion for land use and the ag sector.
The Mexican Corn Conundrum
While Mexico’s decree to ban GMO corn imports has caused the bulk of the U.S. corn industry to cry foul (including Secretary Vilsack), some growers are fine with the ban and appreciate the opportunity to sell conventional corn to Mexico. A recent Reuters article reported that some U.S. corn growers want the U.S. government to back down and allow sales of non-GMO corn which carries a premium. Fred Huddleston, a grower interviewed for the article stated “When they get to the point they’re pushing somebody to buy something they don’t want, then I have concerns about that.” You can read more about the farmers supporting Mexico’s GMO corn ban here.