What the IEA’s World Outlook Means for Agriculture, Plus More Agriculture News This Week
Photo credit: Flickr CC via sammydavisdog
Below, is a selection of recent agriculture-related news links.
A 13-year-old Colorado girl who raises chickens tells it like it is. Kudos to this young lady who is liv’n it in the real world and has a lot to say to foodie hypocrites. A good title might have been, “All I need to know about farming I learned from a 13-year-old”.
CHS Inc, the largest U.S. farm cooperative, saw quarterly earnings jump 75 percent from a year ago, boosted by strong commodity prices and a global network of facilities.
Tom Philpott explains to us how factory farming siphons money out of rural communities, using hog farming as an example.
Corn and soybean prices are falling as South America plants record acreage and the USDA reported a better than expected just-completed harvest in the U.S.
A new Nature study suggests that the water supply in a warming world won’t be all bad, as more heavy rainfalls would mean more charging of underground aquifers.
The price for lamb “on the hoof” is about half to a third of what it was a year ago and the ranchers are having a tough go of it.
In New Hampshire, growing, pressing and marketing local oils through small-scale oilseed production, creates new business for farmers, builds local economies and strengthens the regional food community.
The northeast region of China is one of the most important breadbaskets of the world, and China is shifting more of its production there. Productivity is much higher on the Chinese farmland which is irrigated and the region’s grasslands continue to disappear through desertification, plowing, and over-grazing.
Massey Ferguson is adding four new small-frame tractors to the 7600 Series of row crop tractors with 110-130 pto hp that boast a 6-8 percent fuel-efficiency improvement. Each of the six new New Fendt 700 Series tractor models offer more horsepower and 10 percent better fuel economy than previous models.
This is a sad follow-up to the story about Missourian Marcin Jakubowski, of TED talk fame, who started Factor e Farm.
The cost of farmland and the ongoing question of whether today’s prices are justified figured prominently in this week’s news. NPR covered the story here. Some farmland in North Dakota cracked $10,000 per acre. In Nebraska, 1,855 acres sold for $15,432,600, or $8,319 per acre. And, in Canada, a new cornbelt is attracting investors.
The Atlantic features photographs from a book, The Way We Cook: Portraits from Around the World. I particularly enjoyed the one of tightrope walker, Philippe Petit, subject of the 2008 documentary, Man on Wire.
Northern California photographer, H LEE, has specialized in marijuana farming photography with an interesting website and photographs titled “grassland”. Click around, including the statement page which links to an NPR photo feature.
Perhaps the biggest news this week was the release of the International Energy Agency’s World Energy Outlook 2012. This report tells us that global energy needs are expected to increase by a third by 2035, with 60 percent of the new demand coming from China, India and the Middle East. It expects North America to overtake Saudi Arabia and Russia as the world’s top oil producer by 2017 and to become a net oil exporter by 2030, becoming almost self-sufficient in energy by 2035. Nearly half of this independence will come through efficiency gains. An unrelated, recent article explains to us that part of the U.S. independence will come from the Green River shale formation which purportedly holds 3 trillion barrels of oil, but there will be the problem of competition for water in the dry West, required for its extraction. The IEA report also forecasts that primary energy demand for modern bioenergy – biofuels for transport and products derived from biomass feedstocks and biogas to produce electricity and heat – will more than double by 2035, fostered by government policy. The relatively lower energy costs in the U.S. will give our nation an economic advantage, primarily in the form of natural gas for electricity. As the U.S. produces more of its own oil, a larger percentage of Middle Eastern oil will go to Asia. Coal that the U.S. has but doesn’t use will be exported for use abroad. By 2035, the IEA sees OPEC output rising by more than 10 million barrels per day from current levels. (OPEC produced 35.7 million barrels per day last year and is expected to produce 46.5 million barrels per day in 2035.) Also by 2035, the water use for energy production will rise by 20 percent and the water consumption will jump by 85 percent, in part, for biofuels production. The IEA advises that the Earth needs to keep two-thirds of its fossil fuels in the ground to avert a global warming crisis. And so, a Guardian article put it this way, “…peak oil has gone up in flames. We do not have too little fossil fuel, we have far too much.”
Finally, what does the IEA’s World Outlook 2012 report mean for agriculture? Energy costs and availability are the key to our modern food production, storage, and distribution system. Energy security in the U.S. for decades out would allow for many of the current trends to continue in U.S. (and global) agriculture. Farms may continue to get bigger all over the world as efficiency gains continue in equipment and production methods. We might expect to see increased demand for producing biofuels and biomass. And, there will be escalating competition for what is now agricultural water — for energy production.
Written and compiled by K. McDonald.