The Future of Agriculture: Issues & Trends at the 2014 Ag Outlook Forum
This week I had the privilege of representing Nature’s Seed at the 90th annual Agricultural Outlook Forum in Arlington, Virginia. During this two day event, government and industry leaders from around the world gathered to discuss agricultural policy, scientific research, agribusiness, current issues and future trends. For me, the forum was an excellent opportunity to gather information that our customers might find useful. Whether you’re a large-scale rancher, a hobby farmer, or just have a lawn or small garden, the topics covered at the forum impact us all.
Drought in the WestThe drought in California and other parts of the West was a major topic throughout the forum. During his speech, Chief Economist Joseph Glauber repeatedly referred to the drought in California as being the “wildcard” this year as far as agricultural production is concerned. The Central Valley is getting hit particularly hard, and it’s very likely that food prices will increase as a result. With this in mind, it’s critical that we all do our part to conserve what little water is available this year. For those of us planning to establish or renovate a pasture, consider planting more drought-tolerant forage species and practicing dryland farming methods in case irrigation becomes unavailable. If you’re planning to establish a lawn, be aware that lawns will be the first to have their irrigation restricted during water shortages. You may want to consider planting buffalograss, the most drought-tolerant lawn grass available.
Consumer Trends: Grass-Fed BeefConsumer trends were another hot topic at the forum. One trend that I found particularly interesting was the subject of grass-fed beef. This industry continues to grow and looks very promising for those thinking of entering this niche market. You might be asking, what exactly is the significance of 100 percent pasture-raised beef? While most beef cattle are raised from birth on grass, they often finish their lives eating grain. Most beef produced nowadays has spent the last 90 to 160 days in a feedlot; fattened on grain, corn, soy, and other supplements and fillers. This enables producers to grow their cattle much faster and bigger, but also has some negative side effects for both the animal and environment. On the other hand, 100 percent grass-fed cattle enjoy healthier conditions and avoid digestive complications from unnatural diets. Grass-fed meat also tends to be much leaner and lower in fat than grain-fed meat, as well as containing less saturated fat, calories, and cholesterol. It also contains higher levels of beta-carotene, vitamin C and E, and omega-3 fatty acids. With the demand for grass-fed beef increasing, there’s never been a better time to enter this market.