"Smaller world, bigger markets" is already a reality to which U.S. agriculture must adapt. But in the years to come, this emerging world will also be qualitatively different in important ways. The U.S. Grains Council's Director of Global Strategies, Dr. Erick Erickson, and Director of Global Programs, Kimberly Karst, took time during the Council's 10th International Marketing Conference and 53rd Annual Membership Meeting to identify a series of major underlying shifts that will transform the business environment for both producers and agribusinesses.
In the near term, U.S. agriculture faces a familiar set of issues: increasing demand from a growing global middle class; increasing competition from foreign exporters; immediate pressures from the drought and short crop of 2012; challenges on market access and international acceptance of biotechnology. Underlying these issues are "megatrends," dynamics that will qualitatively change the nature of the global marketplace.
Erickson and Karst identified four such drivers: individual empowerment in a world in which, by mid-century, a majority of people will be middle class; the aging of the global population, especially in the developed countries; the diffusion of power in an international system in which the currently developing countries – already home to a majority of the world's people – will become the world's economic and military center as well; and increasingly severe land, water, energy, and other resource constraints.
With a temperate climate, relatively low population density, world-leading agricultural base, and unmatched scientific and technical expertise, the United States has the potential to meet a significant share of the needs of the growing global middle class. But the political and trade environment in we must operate will be increasingly challenging.
Hockey great Wayne Gretzky once said that most players skate to where the puck is, while a great player skates to where the puck is going to be. The Council's goal, said Erickson, "is to be your Wayne Gretzky. Adapting to these changes, and helping U.S. producers and agribusinesses win these evolving markets, will be a challenge for many years to come.