California Alfalfa & Forage Association

An interesting article recently called to our attention should give pause for thought to the different factions that continue to make it more difficult for agriculture to operate.

At the last CAFA board meeting, Tom Ellis, a board member and alfalfa grower from Grimes, passed along a quote from Dr. Marvin J. Cetron, an author and “futurist.” Speaking at the 6th Annual Great Valley Center Conference earlier this year, Cetron asserted that: “To meet human nutritional needs over the next 40 years, global agriculture will have to supply as much food as has been produced during all of human history.”

Even if his projection is off by a wide margin, it's still an eye-opening statement. Cetron, founder and president of Forecasting International, also struck a chord with his comments that ensuring the world's food supply will depend on the ability of U.S. agriculture to “encourage young people to become career farmers and ranchers.”

Cetron has an impressive resume that includes a 20-year career in research and development planning and forecasting with the U.S. Navy. He was in charge of designing, developing and implementing the most comprehensive technological forecast in the United States. Beside extensive experience with government agencies and foreign governments, Cetron has been a consultant to more than 150 firms including Apple Computers, Control Data Corp., First National City Bank, General Motors, GT&E, IBM, and Xerox.

The look into the future of ensuring the global food supply and the need for young people to stay with agriculture as a career comes at a time when it seems like the odds are stacked against both goals. On the other hand, agriculture has always shown an ability to bounce back from adversity.

Nonetheless, there are troubling trends that CAFA has been following, such as the tenuous position Klamath Basin farmers face when it comes to a continuing supply of irrigation water. Earlier in the year, CAFA responded during a public comment period to urge the Bureau of Reclamation to maintain water deliveries to the Imperial Valley. More recently, CAFA weighed in on the Central Valley Water Quality Control Board's proposals that would burden growers with high fees for monitoring water quality if they were not part of a watershed group.

Equally troubling was the 30 percent cut in funding that the UC Cooperative Extension Service was recently saddled with, plus a 20 percent cut in ag research funding. Despite the efforts of CAFA, some of its members and other ag groups, the funding cuts became reality in the recently passed state budget.

On the positive side, funding for the Williamson Act, which protects farm land from being gobbled up by housing developments, was reinstated in the budget. It was a victory for a coalition that included environmental groups and the California Farm Bureau Federation. With agriculture continuing to lose clout, the cooperative effort may be a template to follow in the future when agriculture faces critical issues.

Given his experience and credentials, Dr. Cetron's projection for the next 40 years should be hammered home to regulators and interest groups that are making it more difficult for agriculture to operate.

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