Dr. Jon Hagler, the Missouri Director of Agriculture, spoke recently at BIO’s Livestock Biotech Summit about our country – and the world – being on the precipice of some unprecedented opportunities in agriculture. As Missouri’s agriculture leader, Hagler has raised ag’s profile by emphasizing the importance of this industry and ag-related jobs to the state’s overall economy and its relevance to every consumer.
Hagler said that with a population of 9 billion expected by 2050, even if we didn’t lose any current cropland, we would have to double production to continue to meet demand. He said the success of agriculture to meet this demand would depend on three primary factors.
First, we must continue to ride the wave of technology change that has taken us from a plow and mule to GPS-guided air conditioned technology and high quality genetic research over the last 100 years. “If you’re not riding the wave of change, you’ll find yourself beneath it,” he said, warning that we can’t turn our back on a technology just because we’re not aware of or comfortable with it. It’s important to embrace technology and educate and explain its benefits.
Second, the ag industry needs to connect to a broader audience. In today’s world only 1.5 percent of Americans live on a farm or ranch, so there is a very big audience that doesn’t understand agriculture. The remaining 98.5 percent need to know what the industry is doing and how it will benefit their lives. It’s not enough to be the world leader in development, research or safety if you can’t connect with consumers and relay that message to them.
Finally, he stressed the importance of leadership. We need to have people take time to be leaders and spokespeople. We have just as much an obligation to develop and communicate science as we do any other product that we have, and if not, then we’re no longer a progressing country.
Hagler ended his talk saying if we develop agricultural science and communicate about it to a broader audience, families will experience a higher and healthier quality of life. “If ag technology does well, America will do well and the world will do well,” he added.