OUR OPINION: World food demand holds potential for Mississippi

By NEMS Daily Journal

Agriculture Commissioner Cindy Hyde-Smith presented sobering facts and encouraging opportunities to farmers from the region Thursday at an annual row crops field day sponsored by Mississippi State University’s research and experiment station in Verona.
Armed with research projecting world population growth to 9 billion by 2050, Hyde-Smith said food production equivalent to double all the food produced in the past 10,000 years will be needed to feed populations quickly outgrowing production capacity in many nations.
Hyde-Smith, herself a farmer from Brookhaven, said Mississippi stands to gain exponentially in its food exports if the state’s farmers make the right moves to increase capacity, acreage and production yields.
She noted that one American farmer on average produces enough to feed 155 people, a huge increase from a few dozen only 50 years ago.
Mississippi has the resources to produce safe, affordable food for millions more people as technology and agri-science make larger yields possible, Hyde-Smith told the meeting.
Mississippi State’s agricultural research division found that 337,0000 acres were added to agricultural production between 2002 and 2007. Mississippi counts almost 11.5 million cropland acres and 19.6 million forestry acres – more than 30 million aces in some kind of agricultural production.
Crop values are impressive in dozens of categories (millions of dollars):
• Broilers/Eggs/Chickens – $2,435,244
• Forestry – $1,078,103
• Soybeans – $846,860
• Cotton – $367,599
• Corn – $419,595
• Catfish – $218,222
• Cattle/Calves – $149,155
• Rice – $226,153
• Hay – $111,138
• Wheat – $21,127
• Hogs – $80,104
• Horticulture Crops – $9,394
• Sweet Potatoes – $7,366
• Milk – $4,142
• Grain Sorghum – $322
• Peanuts – $1,216
• Government Payments $251,357
(Source: Mississippi Agricultural Statistics Service, Jackson, MS and MSU)
The international situation defines both the problem and the opportunities.
The USDA’s research service reported this year, “Nearly 850 million people in 77 lower-income countries are food insecure, and the situation could grow worse in the poorest countries. Some countries – due in part to policy changes and stronger economic growth – have significantly improved their food security situation since the 1996 World Food Summit.
This includes several lower income countries in Asia and Latin America. Sub-Saharan Africa, however, has seen little progress.”
Mississippi clearly has unmet potential in agri-business, and a literally hungry world is waiting for a source to meet unmet nutritional and fiber necessities.