About the blogger: Lance Atwater grew up on a family farm located near Ayr, Nebraska. He is currently a junior at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, majoring in agricultural economics. Lance got a start in the agriculture industry at a young age and has been actively involved ever since. He is a former 2009-2010 Nebraska State FFA Officer, which grew his passion for agriculture and leadership even more. You can follow Lance on twitter at @latwater1 or visit his blog called "A Growing Passion."
Making the Future of Ag Bright!
There is no doubt that it’s a fun time to be in the agriculture industry today. Markets are good and farmers are able to update their equipment with the latest technology. Yet, while it is a fun time to be in agriculture now, it makes me wonder what the future of agriculture holds. While I can’t predict what the exact future of the industry will be, I do have a few clues of some of the challenges that future generations will face.
The first challenge that comes to mind is managing the markets. Over the last year we have already seen crazy price swings and even record breaking prices. Yet, as prices rise, so does the price of inputs, which ends up tightening the farmers’ profit margin. Looking into the future, I expect the markets to get even more volatile as demand increases both domestically and globally. At the same time, we are also seeing increased production in Brazil and Argentina, who are competing with the U.S. in soybean production. As they increase their production, it creates more competition for the U.S., which can end up having a dramatic impact on the price of commodities. As the markets become more volatile, it is going to become increasingly important that both farmers and ranchers learn how to manage risk, especially future generations of farmers and ranchers. There was a time in history where farmers and ranchers didn’t have to pay as close attention to managing risk and could still remain in business. However, that isn’t the case anymore. If farmers don’t manage risk carefully today, they could easily find themselves in financial trouble.
Markets aren’t the only issue farmers and ranchers will face in the future. Regulations on the agriculture industry will also become more stringent. We have already seen some of the regulations take shape such as restricting who can and cannot work on a farm. Also, environmental regulations will have more of an impact on what farmers and ranchers are able to do. While I do believe there is a need for certain regulations, there is a point when regulations aren’t economical or feasible.
One of the other challenges that future generations will face in the agriculture industry is the growing disconnect between the farm and the consumer. As this disconnect continues to grow, more questions will be raised about the food that is grown by the everyday hard working farmer. The concerns could end up changing the way animals are raised or the way crops are grown. The methods farmers and ranchers are using now may end up being taken away due to the fact that consumers will demand change because they are unaware of some of the benefits of these methods, such as raising animals indoors.
Although what I just said may sound gloomy, I still strongly believe that agriculture has a bright future! Even though farmers and ranchers could face these challenges down the road, I am confident that they can overcome them because they have always overcome challenges in the past. Farmers and ranchers are some of the hardest working individuals in the U.S., and despite the challenges that they face everyday, the still manage to provide food for an ever-growing world population. So in my mind agriculture does have a bright future as long as those of us involved in the agriculture industry make it that way!
Editors note: Thank you Lance. With inspired youth like yourself interested in agriculture, we can trust the future of agriculture is in good hands. We'd love to hear from more students on their insight in what the future of agriculture holds. Email Julianne Johnston to have your blog submission considered.