by Karoline Rose, Montana State University Collegiate Stockgrowers
The greatest challenge facing agriculture in the next five years is feeding those who struggle with hunger while keeping those full satisfied. It’s a pain-staking statistic that 1 in 6 people in America are hungry. I can’t imagine opening the refrigerator to find it empty or being worried about where my next meal is coming from. “15.9 million children under 18 in the United States live in households where they are unable to consistently access enough nutritious food necessary for a healthy life” (Feeding America). Is that referring to the child your neighbor or the person sitting next to you in the pew at church? How can GMO, antibiotics, and farming practices be discussed when their are children starving. Someone in America is going to die today of starvation, and yet, we are arguing over GMO labeling.
Controversy is understandable. Those without hunger issues want to know all about production agriculture and where their food is coming from. I am a firm believer in knowledge. As a beef producer, it’s my job to feed the Bill Gates of the world and the children in suburbia from starving to death tonight. The real question is: How? How do I reach those that are hungry and provide them with safe, nutritious food? How do I communicate and share my story with those whose fridge is overfilled with products of American agriculture.
With farmers and ranchers making up only 2% of the US population, we have a huge battle to fight. Not only do we need to feed the other 98% but we must continue to inform and gain the consumers trust. This task is extremely exciting yet daunting all at the same time. It thrills us that the general population is becoming more concerned of where their food comes from, along with how its taken care of and what its fed.
The U.S. Farmer and Rancher Alliance (USFRA) recently conducted a consumer/producer survey about food concerns. While the consumer is worried about how chemicals are used on their food, there are still 1 in 6 Americans starving. Do you think they care about chemicals? Yes, I can guarantee they do but they also are worried about their children surviving through the night.
The solution is not black and white. It’s not easy. But it’s possible. It’s a goal to feed everyone and keep everyone satisfied. The greatest challenge for Agriculture is feeding the hungry and keeping the full satisfied. We are up for the challenge, willing to meet the consumer where they are and explain our practices. In return, I hope the consumer is open and honest with their concerns and fear so we can provide the correct response.
In five years, I hope American can still have a safe, affordable, abundant food source where producers and consumers work as a team, getting food to the table of the needy and being transparent.