Claire Standley & MFB Foundation's Scott Kulbeck.

When you think of the future what do you think of? Hover cars or robots? Possibly, but more likely we will find it holds big challenges for the agriculture industry. While some may be far in the future, many issues are quickly approaching. Today I will highlight just 3 of the many issues facing Agriculture in the future. Technological advancement in farming, the changing of crops we grow to adapt to climate change as well as water shortage, and the moving away from commercial farming and into the urbanization of the industry all are issues we will need to address.

It is undeniable that we will face an increase in technology in agriculture. Whether its drones, GPS, or security cameras, recent years have seen sudden popularity in the newest technology.  As a person advocating for agriculture, I feel it is important to reach out to the public and inform them of these advances. I, along with Farm Bureau can help by reaching out to consumers and talking about changes that are coming. With GMOs, the public has been torn apart with differing opinions. If we had had more advocacy as an industry when GMO technology was first being developed and reached out to educate consumers at the start, there would be a lot less controversy. As technology is becoming more advanced in everything we do, we need to start informing the public about upcoming changes in agriculture. Farm Bureau can be a big help in involving the public as well as reaching out to people in the agriculture industry to help with the implementation of new technology. 

Another area of focus that is quickly approaching is adjusting to forecast changes in temperatures and decreasing water supply. In the next few years, we will need to start preparing producers to combat both the depleting amount of water as well as climate change.  The question is how do we do that? As an agriculturist, one of the easiest solutions is to put emergency precautions together in the case of natural disasters. This may work short term but we need a plan for the next 100 years, not just the next 10. A more long-term solution would be to develop and modify plants that use less water as well as be able to withstand heat. A potential problem with this, as I mentioned before, is the public’s perception of GMOs. An alternative to using GMOs would be to grow low maintenance crops. Meaning choosing plants would not use as much water and be able to withstand higher temperatures.. Did you know that by the year 2100, average temperatures are projected to increase by 2-9.7 degrees F? This will affect both growing seasons and availability of water. Given this likelihood how can we implement these changes?  Farm Bureau can help by talking to the producers directly as well as informing the public. And as individuals we can each do our part to lessen our carbon footprint.

My final topic today is the trend of moving from industrial farming and into the urbanization of agriculture. As more and more people want to know where their food comes from, it creates an increased focus on getting farm fresh products, especially organic ones. In addition, the urbanization of the world as a whole has caused a loss of farmland. This combination will cause more people to start growing their own food leading to a new type of homestead era. Using Google Earth as well as other data, researchers have determined that if implemented in cities around the world, urban agriculture could produce as much as 180 million metric tons of food a year. While urban farming will never replace more conventional farming, it can play a role in bringing people closer to their food and understanding what goes into food production. It is up to us to help teach this.  Not only can Farm Bureau help educate, but they can also help guide legislation regarding farming in urban areas. 

Implementing new technologies, preparing for climate change, and incorporating farming in urban areas are all ways we as an agriculture industry can prepare for the future.  While we may not know exactly what the next 100 years will hold, if we work together focusing on these issues we will be better equipped to handle whatever the future holds. 

The Montana Farm Bureau Foundation is privileged to support agriculture's youth and educational programs that grow agricultural knowledge and experience.  Consider supporting the MFB Foundation during the upcoming Foundation Night Out Fundraiser June 12 or the Foundation Golf Scramble at Bridger Creek Golf Course on June 13.  Can't make it to Bozeman?  Support the MFBF Foundation online!