“We certainly have a shortfall, no doubt about it,” says Sonny Ramaswamy, director of the USDA’s National Institute of Food and Agriculture. Ramaswamy adds that while there has been an increase in the number of students enrolled in agriculture at U.S. universities, “that’s not been enough to keep up with the demand that we’ve got in the workforce.”
The National Institute of Food and Agriculture funded a study released by Purdue University in 2010 that showed just how big of a problem the employment situation might be for the industry. The research found that between 2010 and 2015 an estimated 54,400 jobs would be created annually in agricultural, food and renewable natural resources. To help fill the void, approximately 29,300 students are expected to earn degrees in traditional agriculture and life science-related fields each year. An additional 24,200 students are seen coming from disciplines such as biological sciences or businesses where graduates could choose to go into agriculture or another field.
Ukraine is a major global grain producer and is forecast to export 14.5 million tonnes of maize this year.
Monsanto Invests in Europe
“People have said we are exiting the GMO business in Europe, but we don’t really have a business,” Monsanto’s president and managing director for Europe, Jose Manuel Madero, recently told Reuters in an interview. “Conventional seed is the area where we are focusing at this time in Europe, and we are funding the business in a way that we haven’t done for more than 15 years,” he said.
The company is already investing $300 million to expand its existing seed production facilities in France, Romania, Hungary and Turkey, and has plans to spend “several hundred million dollars” more over the next five years, Madero said. The bulk of that future investment is destined for Ukraine, where Monsanto expects to have its largest seed production plant in Europe within five years after earmarking an initial $150-million investment, which could rise to $300 million within several years.
Ukraine is a major global grain producer and is forecast to export 14.5 million tonnes of maize this year. The country currently imports around half of the seed it needs to produce its annual maize crop, but Monsanto said its plant would reduce that dependence by about a fifth. The company declined to reveal its revenues in Ukraine, but said the total area sown with its seeds there doubled between 2012 and 2013, and that it was optimistic that such growth would continue. “Income per capita continues to increase around the world, in India and China, and Ukraine is playing a very important role in supplying those markets in Asia with grain, so we need to make sure that we are present there,” Madero said.
Hybrid Wheat on Track
Creating hybrid wheat is simple, Randy Rich said in a recent interview with Farm Futures. Rich is a veteran breeder with plenty of years invested in hybrid wheat research and the leader that Syngenta expects to bring the first commercial hybrid wheat to farm fields across the United States by 2020. “Creating the hybrid is as simple as making a first cross. Breeders do it all the time in developing new varieties. The trick is finding the right production process to making those promising hybrids easy and effective to grow in commercial quantities,” Rich said. “When Syngenta decided to come back into hybrid wheat research, I was able to come here with a pretty strong knowledge of what germplasm was already out there. It provided me a head start in getting back into research. We already know which lines make the best hybrids and provide that heterosis that makes hybrids perform better than either of their parents.”
New Face at Helm of CSTA
“We are a diverse group of individuals and companies that understand that we can achieve more if we work together,” said Peter Entz, new president of the Canadian Seed Trade Association as he accepted his president’s gavel in mid-July at CSTA’s annual meeting. Entz, who is the assistant vice president of seeds and traits for Richardson, said the fact that the members don’t always agree contributes to the strength of the CSTA. “We need to disagree on issues, but with the understanding that we also need to move forward, and we need to be relevant.” Entz outlined the successes CSTA has had over the last year, and attributes much of that success to CSTA’s ability to bring the value chain together: “I think CSTA is being recognized as a can do organization. We can do it, but we understand that we cannot do it alone. We need to work in collaboration with others.”
“They have a complete track record of safety that’s been affirmed by experience.”
Spreading the Message
“It’s time for a new, fresh conversation around the balancing act between the demand for food and the tools and technologies we use to meet that demand,” says Robb Fraley, chief technology officer for Monsanto. Seeds are a $10-billion business for Monsanto, and Fraley just won the World Food Prize for his pioneering work in creating the first soybean modified to withstand the herbicide Roundup. Roundup Ready soybeans dominate the market, and China just approved the use of Monsanto’s latest version. “We still kind of talk about this like it’s brand-new science,” Fraley said. “The reality of it is these products have been used in the marketplace for almost 20 years. They have a complete track record of safety that’s been affirmed by experience.”
Many states are attempting to increase fruit and vegetable consumption by improving access and making it easier to get them into schools and child care facilities.
Veggie and Fruit Consumption Low
The State Indicator Report on Fruits and Vegetables, 2013 shows that fruit and vegetable consumption is higher in some states than others, but overall consumption of those products in the United States is low. According to the report, adults consume fruit about 1.1 times per day and vegetables about 1.6 times per day. Many states are attempting to increase fruit and vegetable consumption by improving access and establishing policies that make it easier to get them into communities, schools and child care facilities, said the report. For example, 28 states now have a farm to school/ preschool policy. Twenty-seven states have created state-level food policy councils—coalitions of private and public partners working together to improve access to healthy food. However, the report says there is still more work to be done to increase fruit and vegetable access and consumption. For example, only about 70 percent of all census tracts in this country currently have at least one store that offers a wide variety of affordable fresh produce. This rate varies by state, with California, New York, Florida, the District of Columbia and Oregon having the greatest access to one of these stores.