South Dakota’s contribution to global food security

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Farm Forum

BROOKINGS — South Dakota plays a valuable role in feeding the World, said Alvaro Garcia, SDSU Extension Agriculture and Natural Resources Program Director & Professor of Dairy Science.

A role that becomes even more important as concerns over feeding the world’s population in the future increasingly make media headlines driven by population increases across the Globe. “The Food and Agriculture Organization estimates the World will reach 9.1 billion mark by 2050,” Garcia said. “This is a 34 percent increase over the current population and its consequences are projected to not only impact developing countries, but even areas of the U.S.”

Garcia explained that South Dakota inadvertently contributes to food security because the local agriculture industry has a significant impact on the state’s economy.

“With more than 19 million acres of cropland and 23 million acres of pastureland, agriculture contributes $20.9 billion to the state’s economy each year,” he said.

According to data, Garcia added that more than 80,000 South Dakotans are employed in the agricultural industry.

Along with global population increase, Garcia said climate variability as well as migration from rural to urban areas does not help this issue.

“Compared to nearly half of the population living in the cities nowadays, it is estimated that by 2050 about 70 percent of populations will live in urban areas,” he said.

To be able to feed the increasingly urban population, Garcia said research shows that food production must increase by 70 percent. “From 2.1 billion tons of cereal grains produced in the world yearly, we will need to rise to 3 billion tons or more. From 200 million tons of beef today, livestock producers will need to increase this production to 470 million tons,” Garcia said.

In this scenario, Garcia said agricultural sustainability coupled with precision agriculture, are going to become critical.

Agribusiness friendliness and people

Colorado State University recently ranked South Dakota number 1 in its Agribusiness-Friendly Index.

The Agribusiness Friendliness Index focuses on each state’s economic climate towards agriculture and takes into consideration local and state government policies, geography, climate and other factors.

Four indexes compose the overall score:

1. Agricultural input index;

2. Crops, Fruits and Vegetables Index;

3. Meats and Livestock Products Index; and

4. Agricultural processing index.

South Dakota ranked first or second in all four. Indexes are scored through 38 variables which include: government regulation, government efficiency of revenues & expenditures, government services and business climate.

“One other aspect which is even more important are the characteristics of the people that reside and make their living in the state,” Garcia said.

According to a Gallup poll, South Dakota is number two in the nation in well-being, trailing only to North Dakota. The Well-Being Index tracks factors such as emotional health, work environment, physical health, healthy behaviors and basic necessities.

North Dakota scored the highest overall, due specifically to scores in work environment and physical health. The difference is that the high scores of North Dakota, Garcia explained, were attributed to the strong boom in job growth (fifth year in a row) associated with the oil industry; whereas South Dakota has agriculture and tourism as significant drivers.

Global food production

When it comes to production of corn, soybeans and beef, South Dakota is among the top producing states in the U.S. In 2014 South Dakota ranked sixth in corn production at 787 million tons of corn; eighth in soybean production at 229.9 million bushels; and seventh in cattle production with 3.65 million head.

Garcia explained that when per capita data is compared, South Dakota is a leader in contributing to global food security because we raise more than we consume.

“Quite simply, state’s with larger populations, need to produce more food to feed their own people and cannot share as much – South Dakota on the other hand, has plenty to share,” Garcia said.

Per capita figures for 2014 are as follows: corn, 992 bushels per person; soybeans, 269.5 bushels per person and 4.27 head of cattle per person.

“These figures clearly show South Dakota leads the country on per capita production of the U.S. major crops and cattle,” Garcia said.

Garcia said that agricultural areas destined to produce efficiently will be critical as we face increased migration from rural to urban areas. “Priority will need to be placed on profitable, highly productive systems that lead to societal stability and are environmentally neutral at worst,” he said.

To learn more, visit iGrow.org.