The following commentary does not necessarily reflect the views of AgWeb or Farm Journal Media. The opinions expressed below are the author's own.
The AgriTalk broadcast is done for today, but the conversation continues. AgriTalk host Mike Adams shares his thoughts and opinions on the news of the week and invites your feedback.
Global warming is heating up and I'm not talking about temperatures. A new report putting a 95% probability of humans causing global warming will spark more calls for action. Those potential actions and over reactions worry me a lot more than global warming itself. There's no doubt global changing is taking place and a growing world population probably has something to do with it. How much and what if anything should be done about it are the big questions. I'm afraid the answers policy makers come up with will do more harm than good. Politicians, with the backing of environmental groups, often push for unrealistic changes that other countries aren't willing to do, lessening their impact. Making things worse, some of those same policy makers and groups stand to profit from the changes. Protecting the environment is important but so to is how you go about it. Those wanting changes claim any weather event, good or bad, is because of global warming. Others say global cooling is a bigger threat than global warming. The government's track track record on fixing problems isn't exactly stellar. Hopefully this won't be a case of the cure being worse than the illness.
Beauty is not the only thing in the eye of the beholder. So too is a corn and bean crop and this year's crops have lots of eyes on them as we head toward harvest. Earlier this month many farmers felt USDA's crop estimates were too high while many traders felt they were too low. As numbers come in this week from the Pro Farmer Midwest Crop Tour some see the bin half empty while others see it half full. The crops are certainly considerably larger than last year but perhaps not as large as many had hoped for. Lots of questions remain. Will there be enough moisture down the stretch and will the stretch be long enough before the first frost? Meanwhile farmers are closely watching some other numbers and many don't like what they see. Grain prices are trending lower as exports have slowed and traders believe a big crop will get bigger. While that's good news for livestock producers it may finally create some urgency in the countryside to put pressure on Congress to get a farm bill done. It might also change some marketing plans this fall. No matter what the projections are, farmers will tell you nothing is for sure until the crop is in the bin and that's where a lot of it may wind up if prices continue to drop.
The development of meat in a laboratory from animal cells may be a glimpse into a future that some will welcome and others will find hard to accept. Obviously the price of over $300,000 for a hamburger is prohibitive and the taste may not be to a lot of people's liking but those things will probably be addressed. If so the bigger question will be whether consumers will embrace such technology. Those opposed to current meat production will welcome the new product as an animal free food. They will promote it as a safer, more environmentally friendly and more humane food source. Whether true or not, this will have an appeal to some. If advancements such as longer shelf life are developed then the appeal will grow even more. For many of us this may seem hard to imagine. We are used to meat production as it is and the thought of eating something from a test tube doesn't seem right. The "yuck" factor is too great for us. Perhaps we should have seen this coming and been better prepared for its arrival. Agriculture has embraced technology as a way to more efficiently provide food for a growing world population. Perhaps this is the next step. Of course this won't happen overnight if at all. Time will tell. Still we would be making a mistake to think it couldn't happen. Future generations may accept lab produced meat the same way many of us accept current meat production. Predicting the "yuck" factor of future generations is tricky business.
While the biofuels and livestock industries battle over the Renewable Fuels Standard, perhaps both should stop and see the possible bigger fight looming. Many are already wondering how we will feed a growing world population, and a report from the Institute on the Environment at the University of Minnesota offers an answer that should concern both industries. The report suggests that the world's billions could be fed if we eliminate crop use for BOTH biofuels and livestock production. While not making the recommendation, the report will no doubt be used by opponents of both industries. Agriculture has spent too much time fighting civil wars and not focusing on the world war being waged against them. Time and resources should be combined by ag groups to get their message out instead of attacking each other. Sometimes it is hard to see the big picture while focusing on the smaller ones. Differences between the two sides pale in comparison to the potential pitfalls both could face from an uninformed and misled public. The livestock industry is already fighting that battle. No need to take on another one especially with someone who can be a valuable ally in the bigger struggle. Both sides have good stories to tell. It makes no sense to drown out their own voices by shouting at each other.