By Chris Adams
For Bob Young, the advantages of big agriculture are important, and self-evident, by this fact: Even as the global population boomed, the number of people going to bed hungry dropped.
Citing a 2015 report on global food insecurity from the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations, Young said the public hasn’t really appreciated how technological advances in farming have already curbed global hunger.
“I think that’s a miracle – that we’ve added 2 billion people to the planet … and lowered the number of folks who go to bed hungry,” he said.
Young is chief economist for the American Farm Bureau Federation, the largest general farm organization in the U.S. In a session with National Press Foundation fellows, he explained the business of farming, which he says remains “probably the most family-oriented business sector in the country.” He pointed fellows to data on the U.S. farm sector.
While farms are bigger than before and the industry has a high level of concentration, it’s been that way for years, he said.
Young broke down the costs that go into farming, including the hired labor, pesticides and herbicides, insurance, storage, seed and machinery. For younger farmers who rent crop land, the situation is different from older farmers who are more likely to own.
“If you’re all-rent, you’re probably not making any money,” he said. “If you own the land, you probably are making money, but not a lot.”
He also detailed the differences between conventional and organic crops. One example he cited: organic dairies produce about 30 percent less milk per cow than conventional dairies.