Farm Technology Push Must Speed Up

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Agriculture needs to increase productivity rapidly and expand in key farming areas like the Black Sea and Africa for world food needs to be met, J.B. Penn, chief economist at farm equipment maker John Deere said in an interview.

“Regardless of the impact of climate change, we are going to have to produce a lot more food in the coming decades to feed more people and to feed them better and feed people who are increasingly affluent and will improve their diets,” said Penn, a former undersecretary at the U.S. Agriculture Department.

“In order to do that our work pretty clearly shows that we’re going to have to rapidly accelerate the rate of productivity growth,” he said. “We are going to have innovate and be smarter about how we produce crops and livestock, how we process, store and transport food.”

Penn, speaking on the sidelines of the World Food Prize forum, said the technology revolution that has met the needs of agriculture in the developed economies must of necessity spread to the developing world.

“The great farming areas of the world are pretty much farmed. We just have to improve the productivity in some parts of the world to bring it up,” he said.

“North America, we’re doing quite well. Europe is well advanced. Brazil, Argentina are coming along pretty fast. But then you’ve got the Black Sea region – Russia, Ukraine, Kazakhstan – a lot of low yields and under-utilized land.

“Where you can do agriculture in Asia, the yields lag elsewhere in the world. So that’s another big area. Then in Africa there is a vast amount of under-utilized area – yields are low but there are natural resources,” Penn said.

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