News from the Secretary by Larry Gabriel S.D. Secretary of Agriculture Why don't we feed the world?
I doubt we could feed the entire population of the world, but wouldn't it be fun to try?
There is little question about it. American farmers and livestock producers are the best in the world. We can out-compete just about anyone when it comes to agricultural production.
Strange as it may seem, much of the world does not want the agricultural producers of America to feed the world. There are also many domestic efforts to decrease our production.
I sometimes get questioned for my efforts to promote increased production, when a large part of our society wants less production, more small farms, more government subsidy for unprofitable operations, more land taken out of production, and reduced exports.
I have met with delegations from China and Russia this year to discuss our agricultural production. I recently gave a talk to a group of foreign trade experts from around the world.
There is a lot of national and international interest in what we are doing in South Dakota, because we are determined to make our agricultural economy grow at a time when others are scaling back.
I am pro-development and pro-economic growth because that's my job, but it does not happen without objection.
Part of my job description is to promote the interests of agriculture "in every practical manner," including cooperating with the federal officials in "securing new foreign markets for surplus farm products."
I am guided by law to do these things "with a view to increasing production and facilitating the distribution thereof at the least possible costs." In trade and economic circles, that is known as "comparative advantage." We have it. Others want it.
I read letters form our department's deputy secretary who is currently serving us in Iraq, where he describes their antiquated farming methods.
I visit with my counterpart from Russia and listen as he outlines their struggle to get land into private ownership and control, fund it with outside capital investments and then educate the farmers on improved methods. And, it must be done in that order, he says.
China is working on converting its farming from local subsistence farming to modern industrial agriculture.
Brazil is becoming a major competitor. Australia and Canada are not far behind us in modernization.
All over the world, farmers are getting better at what they do, but we are the leaders.
International trade negotiations are designed mostly to hold us back while the rest of the world catches up. That is a policy decision of the United States Senate, but I don't work for the Senate.