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Challenges and opportunities
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This past week was the start of another school year at Barton. One of the classes Ag students take is termed Agriculture In Society. This class deals with the impact agriculture has on our society and its development. And on the flip side, it deals with society’s impact on agriculture. As a first assignment, students worked individually and in groups to answer the following questions:
• What are the most important challenges facing agriculture currently and over the next thirty years?
• What are the most important obstacles facing agriculture now and into the future?
• What are the most important positive changes/trends you see for agriculture now and over the next few decades?
These questions are intentionally broad and a bit vague intentionally. They are designed for two purposes. First, they make you think without being guided in a particular path and help develop critical thinking skills. Second, it helps determine what they know in this area and where the class needs to go to develop logical opinions about where agriculture is headed. Since they are the future of agriculture, it is imperative they really start thinking about these issues and not parrot what they hear. They start out considering these issues by themselves then get together in small groups to work on their list and finally list and discuss the questions as a class. So what did they come up with, remembering some of the challenges and obstacles overlap? Before reading on, take a moment to make your own list.
• Lack of an adequate, trained workforce
• Producing enough food for 2 billion more people
• The cost of technology and inputs
• Adequate research and development funding
• Scarcity of arable land
• Societal pressure on methods of livestock production
• Pest resistance to control measures
• Water availability and water rights
• Energy costs
• Lack of an adequate U.S. Farm program
• Government overregulation
• Adequate education to keep up with technology and challenges
• Water availability and possible changes in precipitation
• Pest resistance to chemical control and genetically modified crops
• Aging rural population
• Difficulty in obtaining affordable farm and pasture land
• Urbanization of farmland
• Input costs without a similar increase in output prices
• Land degradation
• Pressures from animal rights activists
• Climate changes
Positive trends
• Technology such as GPS, autosteer, variable-rate technologies
• Improved genetics for crops and livestock
• New chemistries and techniques for pest control and crop production
• New and better equipment
• Increased demand for agriculture products
• Improved medicines for livestock
• Better feeds and feeding programs for livestock
Did they name every possible item? No, but they demonstrated a good overall understanding of the challenges and opportunities facing food, fiber, and fuel production in the 21st Century.
Dr. Victor L. Martin is the agriculture instructor/coordinator for Barton Community College. He can be reached at 620-792-9207, ext. 207.