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Exports key now, key later

By Staff | Mar 23, 2017

MICHAEL JOHANNS, a former U.S. secretary of agriculture and governor of Nebraska, and an Iowa native, addresses statewide ag leaders March 7 at the Iowa State Fairgrounds.

DES MOINES – Food production is facing a daunting challenge. By 2050 the world’s population is expected to hit 11 billion, but the world’s soil for growing food is either depleted through mismanagement or over use, and other aerable acres are lost to urban growth.

“In fact 90 percent of the world’s population will happen outside the U.S.,” said Mike Johanns, a former USDA Ag Secretary and Nebraska governor, speaking March 7 to Iowa ag leaders at an awards banquet in Des Moines. “Why then would we want to jeopardize trade?”

Johanns was questioning the Trump adminsitration’s planned changes in trade partnerships between the U.S. and many other countries to correct a trade deficit that leaves the U.S. buying more foreign goods, than other countries by from here.

Exception for agriculture goods, Johanns said. “We enjoy a favorable surplus.”

And that is threatened if other countries decide to buy corn, soybeans and meat from other sellers.

“Sixty percent more food (than now) will be needed by 2050,” Johanns said. “And 90 percent of that new food will have to come from higher yields.”

Currently, ag exports constitute 35 percent, or $135 billion, of all ag incomes annually, Johanns said. “That’s one in every three acres.”

It includes 48 percent of the nation’s soybeans are sold to other countries, 40 percent of wheat, 15 percent of corn, 75 percent of specialty crops.

Among Iowa’s three largest exporting clients Canada buys 26 percent of Iowa’s ag production, followed by China at 17 percent and Mexico at 12 percent – a total of $5.8 billion in exports among the three.

And with most of the world’s population growing elsewhere, the U.S. is poised to ship even more food around the globe.

In attendance were members of FFA chapters around the the state. Johanns indicated the FFA’ers and said: “So we must develop the science to give these youths the tools and equipment to properly apply pesticides and fertilizer, and to focus on water quality.

“We all want clean air and clean water, but we can’t do it with the hammer of of regulation. We have to do it through education.”

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