A few of us in the office were joking this morning about the futility of predicting the future. There’s an old saw I like, “Nothing is as dated as yesterday’s future.”
But, I was fascinated later in the day with word of a new report from the National Intelligence Council (NIC). The study, Global Trends 2030, outlines what the Council sees as megatrends (relative certainties) and game changers.
There are some major implications for agriculture in the megatrends forecast, including:
- The majority of the globe’s population won’t be impoverished. There will be an expanding middle class in most countries.
- Life expectancy will see “rapid extensions."
- Urbanization will climb to nearly 60%.
- Demand for food will rise by 35%.
- Energy demand is expected to climb by 50%.
- Severe water shortages will exist for nearly half the world’s population.
- Asia will be set to surpass North America and Europe in global economic power, but there will be no single dominant force.
Of note in the “critical game changer” ideas from the NIC:
- The U.S. has a good chance of becoming energy independent by 2030.
- “Disruptive technologies” potentially will develop in 16 areas, including food- and water-related innovations.
Does any of this lead you to make a prediction about the farm of 2030? At the risk of looking like George Jetson, here are a few ideas off the top of my head:
- Food export demand from Asia and other fast-growing parts of the world will drive ever more improvements in crop and livestock genetics.
- More farmers, not fewer, will be needed in natural resource rich areas of the world, where soil and water advantages will drive intensive production and more niche markets will emerge.
- The Corn Belt will move north, pushing wheat and other small grain production into other parts of the globe.
- Farmers will connect across borders through new global organizations to cooperate in technology development, marketing, and new product creation.
- Water conservation practices will rapidly improve, but many irrigated acres will return to dryland farming due to water shortages.
- Biofuels production will kick into high gear, using more and more non-corn sources.
- Some totally unforeseen innovation will occur with agricultural technology—something on par with space travel, invention of the Internet, and genetic engineering.
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