By Mike Kruger
Chief Executive Officer, Midwest Dairy Council
Beginning in the early 1800s, settlers moved to the heart of the United States in search of better farmland. The Midwest region’s fertile soil made it possible for farmers to produce abundant harvests of wheat, oats and corn, and it soon became known as the nation’s breadbasket. The region was also perfect for livestock producers to settle because of access to high quality feed sources. By the late 1800s, the integration of the region into the national economy brought with it many centers of industry spurred by agriculture.
The region’s hub —Chicago, Illinois, and the nation’s third largest city —makes it the perfect backdrop to bring the conversation that we began on June 14th home —on the challenges we face in feeding a global population, expected to grow to nine billion by 2050. Midwest Dairy Council’s partnership with the Washington Post Live’s Future of Food: Food Security in the 21st Century Forum will address domestic food security against the backdrop of this global debate through two panels, including an “Overview on Domestic and Global Food Security” and “Improving Access to Healthy, Nutritious Food in the Midwest.”
Whether we think about it or not, we all count on U.S. agriculture and need a vibrant agriculture industry. In this country, food is relatively inexpensive and accessible. Yet, people struggle with access to nutritious foods.
I have worked on behalf of dairy farmers for more than 30 years and have witnessed the challenging times our own industry has faced, including this summer’s drought coupled with the 2009 economic meltdown and high feed and production costs. But even in the face of those challenges, Midwest farmers and the dairy industry are poised to deliver on helping to feed a hungry world through their dedication to innovation and efficiency and their commitment to being part of the solution.
Dairy farmers, with support from across the supply chain, are continuously advancing production methods to meet the needs of a growing population. In fact, more milk is produced today from only nine million cows versus what came from 26 million cows in 1944.* And due to its wide availability and versatility —from fluid to powdered to shelf stable —it has almost universal access and appeal.
America’s 51,000 dairy farm families, including the 9,500 from the Midwest’s heartland, take great pride in being vital contributors in their community and maintaining our natural resources. They help to create healthier communities through economic contributions, a healthier planet through sustainable agriculture and environmental stewardship, and healthier people in producing a variety of dairy foods that continue to remain an affordable source of nutrition.
We are excited to bring this issue home to the Midwest today, and to keep the conversation going to ensure healthy people, healthy communities and a healthy planet.
* J. L. Capper, R. A. Cady, and D. E. Bauman, “The environmental impact of dairy production: 1944 compared with 2007,” Journal of Animal Science 87 (Mar. 13, 2009): 2160–2167.