Agriculture Has a Bright Future, But This Is Not It

From the remarks South Dakota Secretary of Agriculture Bill Even made to a bunch of farmers, ranchers and others whose livelihoods depend on the South Dakota agricultural markets:

With the world’s population increasing to nine billion people in the next half century, agriculture will need to step up and provide the food, feed, fiber, fuel and fundamental building blocks of a renewable economy, Even said.

New technology will revolutionize how the world’s products are made, he said.

“I’m here to tell you that fossil fuels are finite; there is an end to them,” he said. “As we march toward nine billion people our ability to refine petroleum is going to become extremely and increasingly expensive.

It is telling that he considers fossil fuels finite but does not apply the same rules to agricultural production. They are both finite, by definition, though we’ve not run into a verifiable limit for either. Further, it would seem that with more people competing in the marketplace for jobs in the petroleum refining industry that petrochemical products would become less expensive, not more. I understand that he is trying to be an ag booster, but has he not heard of the principle of getting ahead on one’s merits, rather than trying to pull down others so one looks good by comparison?

A couple of paragraphs later in the story, we have the following:

On Friday, brothers Brian and Darren Hefty, hosts of the popular agricultural television program, Ag PhD, talked about how crops affect the quality of the soil and how farmers can be more profitable.

“You should replace everything that you take from the soil,” Brian Hefty said. “We just think that’s being a good steward of the land.”

See, that’s the thing. If we take a whole bunch of stuff out of the ground (like say, the nutrients in native prairie grass) and we do not compensate the soil for what it has lost, then our production, our yield, will diminish. However, this replacement is not without substantial cost.

While there is much that ag does and can do for South Dakota, it does not help for the leading voice in the state to provide producers with what amounts to (in my opinion) false hope which is based on marvelous breakthroughs which have yet to occur.