« Agriculture

World Feeder and the National Institute for Animal Agriculture

by Dan Cash

by Karl Guenther

It’s something I rather thought we already were doing.  The National Institute for Animal Agriculture is looking at societal changes happening and about to happen, and trying to anticipate some of the requirements of American food production to feed the world.  I thought we were already doing that, and doing a pretty good job of keeping up.  We all have heard of and even seen pictures of "starvation."  Well, it’s not because food isn’t available - - it’s just that the food, and/or the money to ward off starvation, gets sidetracked.

Dr. Robert Fourdraine, though, has what I see as a pretty good feel for what still needs to happen, and maybe he has some good ideas as to how to achieve it.  He chaired the most recent NIAA Annual conference and comments on “so many factors intertwined” which must be harmonized so values and technologies can be merged to serve a growing and hungry world. It seems clear to me, that this particular arm of world food production is in fact focused on the animal part of food production - - beef, pork, poultry, and indeed, fish.  Grain producers, I suppose simply no-till more land, plant super hybrid seed, and thereby meet world demand.  There’s a sort of biotechnology involved there, of course.  Now, with animal agriculture.

By definition, as I found on the internet, animal biotechnology is the application of scientific and engineering principles to the processing or production of materials by animals or aquatic species to provid goods and services.  As you may have guessed, it does involve genetic modification, just as is true with plants.

It’s also quite clear by now that the National Institute for Animal Agriculture has its work cut out for it, as it is one of several institutions and agencies concentrating on making American agriculture even more productive than it already is.  My goodness, when I was a kid on the farm, the American farmer did well to feed his family and a very few others.  Now the American Farmer produces enough to feed a couple of hundred or more, with capacity to produce even more, if the world marketplace can pick up the tab.

American agriculture is expanding around the world, not only to meet world demand for food, but it one case that’s in the news these days the ownership of an entire company is going overseas.  You’ve probable seen Smithfield hams in your grocer’s chiller case. Well, a central China-based meat processing company is acquiring Smithfield Foods, paying 4.7 billion U.S. Dollars.  The Chinese firm is also assuming 2.4 billion dollars of Smithfield debt.

There are some regulatory procedures yet to be satisfied but the deal apparently will close by the end of the year.

There are those who worry U.S. Pork producers will be price pressured by the demand for cheaper pork products inChina.  The Chinese say, quite to the contrary, that the purchase is an effort to improve the quality of life and nutrient consumption in the Chinese marketplace.

Karl Guenther is a retired Kalamazoo farm broadcaster and can be reached atkhguenther@att.net. He is a member of Michigan Farm Bureau and an emeritus member of the National Association of Farm Broadcasting.