Opinion Columns & Blogs

Sen. Pat Roberts: Growing world will require more food

We have it pretty good in America. When we're hungry, we can run to the nearest restaurant or grocery store for our favorite burger or salad. When we need a snack, we head to the neighborhood convenience store.

We live in a country where we enjoy the safest, most abundant and affordable food supply in the world, right at our fingertips.

Our ability to largely find what we want, when we want it, is in large part because of the hard work and innovation of America's farmers, ranchers and growers. Today, each agriculture producer is responsible for supplying food for more than 150 people. That's a modern miracle many of us take for granted. However, there's more for them to do.

By the year 2050, the global population will rise to more than 9 billion people. By the turn of the next century, that number will top 10 billion. That's a lot of mouths to feed.

In addition to the sheer population expansion, global food demand will shift toward higher-value proteins and commodities as economies develop and prosper. To meet this challenge, we must double our agriculture production in order to feed this troubled and hungry world.

For example, in 1985 the average person in China consumed roughly 44 pounds of meat. This increased to 90 pounds per person in a short 15 years. That number is expected to double again by 2030.

This is no small task. It will take advancements in technology, efficiency and, in some cases, simply getting government and regulatory roadblocks out of the way. Doubling agriculture production will only occur through farming techniques that combine the use of important conservation practices with the use of improved seed varieties that increase drought and disease resistance while increasing yields.

Today we increase production annually by 1.4 percent. We need to be closer to 1.8 percent to get the job done.

We need to ensure that producers have access to new technologies and that new products can be brought to market efficiently and consistently. The economic potential of an expanding population and markets is enormous.

The more nations we can help to feed and bring economic prosperity, the more stable the world as a whole will become. That is good for our families, our nation and the world.

We can only do that through commonsense policies based on sound science that will allow our producers to do what they need to get the job done. This is a moral imperative. It is also a matter of national security.

A well-fed world is a much safer and more stable place than a hungry world. Full bellies lead to stability, economic growth and peace. Hungry bellies lead to discontent, instability and extremism.

We must give our farmers and ranchers the tools they need to be successful, maintain their operations, and continue to expand their production. Our government, its Congress and its regulatory agencies need to get out of the way and let them do their jobs.

Nine billion people and a world hungry for nutrition, peace and stability are depending on it.