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Can we feed 9 billion people by 2050?

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Fifty years ago, the agriculture industry showed cattle feeding centered in corn country of the upper Midwest. People had recently moved from frontier living to conveniences such as indoor toilets and running water in insulated homes, most without air conditioning.

Fifty-years of change within the cattle feeding industry caused it to move to the southern plains and allowed America to become a much more prosperous country. The most important question is not about the past, but the future: Can agriculture feed 9 billion people by 2050? The answer comes from Lowell Catlett, retired dean of agriculture from New Mexico State University, whose professional career spanned across 50 years of change.

If you’ve attended a major meeting in agriculture, you may have heard Lowell Catlett speak. Catlett is called a futurist, but he talks about agriculture from his childhood in West Texas to his tenure as Dean of Agriculture at a major university.

Catlett spoke with Ron Hays from the Radio Oklahoma Ag Network at the 50th anniversary meeting of the Texas and Southwest Cattle Feeders Convention.

The Texas Cattle Feeders Association celebrated its 50th anniversary during the association’s annual convention in Amarillo. Dr. Lowell Catlett, regents professor for the Department of Agricultural Economics and Agricultural Business, New Mexico State University, offered attendees perspective as to how far the feeding industry has come in Texas over the last 50 years. Radio Oklahoma Ag Network Farm Director Ron Hays was there and had the chance to speak with Dr. Catlett, who says when it comes to cattle feeding in Texas, things are a lot different and a lot better.

Catlett explained – before Texas established itself in the business, cattle feeding was done primarily in Iowa and across the Midwest, where feedstocks like corn and soybeans were plentiful. Catlett says it was only natural for feeders to begin where the source of feed was. However, he says they eventually discovered the benefits Texas and the High Plains had to offer.

“The old, dry climate in the Great Plains – the Southern Great Plains, especially, you just don’t have quite the harshness of having to use up a lot of energy to stay warm,” Catlett said. “Cattle do quite well in the High Plains, and we uni-train grains down from the Midwest sometimes and have seen some transformations over the last 50 years.”

It is not just the cattle feeding industry that has grown by leaps and bounds during the last half a century, Catlett says, but rather the entire Ag industry. As many wonder how farmers will be able to feed 9 billion people by 2050 – Catlett confidently says we are already there.

“We are – we produce enough food in agriculture now – we can easily feed 10 billion people. We already essentially produce that much,” Catlett said. “Until we go back and look, and frame some things in the past – we tend to just kind of think that things are always the way they were.”

Story Courtesy of Ron Hays, Radio Oklahoma Ag Network

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