ORLANDO, Fla. — Dan Basse, president of AgResource Company, kicked off the 2019 Bayer AgVocacy Forum on a positive note.
He told the reporters in attendance that he was starting to feel bullish about agriculture for the first time in about six years.
Farmers haven’t experienced a big demand driver since the ethanol boom between 2008 and 2012.
But there are signs that one may be on the horizon because demand for grains and oilseeds is picking up.
“I’m starting to see low prices do their magic,” he said.
And there is talk that China will buy $50 billion worth of American agricultural product if a trade deal is worked out with the U.S.
That would be about double the previous annual high. If that happens, watch out.
Brandon McFadden, assistant professor of applied economics and statistics at the University of Delaware, said growers get about 12 percent of every dollar spent on food, and that has to change.
One of the challenges is that consumers are spending more of their food dollars on dining out and growers receive only three percent of every dollar spent at restaurants.
Fred Gmitter, professor of the University of Florida’s Citrus Research and Education Center, said citrus greening disease is decimating Florida’s crops.
“It is spreading and it is spreading rapidly and dramatically,” he said.
Gmitter said researchers hope to use gene editing techniques to create resistant trees but that is going to be a long process.
He said Florida’s citrus industry will never return to its glory days.
Lynn Dornblaser, director of innovation and insight with Mintel, a market research firm, talked about the GenZ demographic, which is 12- to 24-year-olds.
She said they are different than millennials in many ways.
“They are a little more balanced in their thinking,” said Dornblaser.
For instance, they are more accepting about GMOs because they recognize the environmental benefits of GM crops.
The most controversial topic by far was the discussion on cultured meat, which is meat grown from cells in a lab rather than coming from live animals.
Andrew Noyes, head of communications with JUST, said the company has a chicken meat product that is ready for commercialization pending regulatory approvals.
The company says the meat can be produced with significant reductions in land use, water use and greenhouse gas emissions compared to conventional meat.
Kevin Kester, 2018 president of the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association, was annoyed by those assertions because he noted that cultured meat hasn’t been commercialized anywhere in the world, so it is impossible to draw any conclusions about the environmental benefits of the product.
He was also irritated that it is being referred to as “clean meat,” which is disparaging to conventional meat products.
Bob Reiter, global head of research and development with Bayer Crop Science, said there is one crop in the company’s research pipeline that could transform agriculture once commercialized.
Short stature corn is showing enormous potential to dramatically increase yields and decrease water use.