Farm Progress

Ag productivity is slipping

The Global Agricultural Productivity or “Gap” Report and GAP Index measure agricultural productivity growth against growth in global population and food demand. Results are released each year at the World Food Prize in Des Moines, Iowa.

Jodie Wehrspann

October 15, 2015

3 Min Read
<p>Margaret Zeigler, executive director of the Global Harvest Initiative, left, was joined by a panel of experts for the release of the annual report on global ag productivity, held during the World Food Prize in Des Moines, Iowa.</p>

Global Harvest Initiative, a private-sector policy voice for productivity growth in agriculture, this week released its annual GAP Report, which showed a slowdown in growth for the second year in a row, pointing to a need for continued investments in public and private innovations. 

The Global Agricultural Productivity or “Gap” Report and GAP Index measure agricultural productivity growth against growth in global population and food demand. Results are released each year at the World Food Prize in Des Moines, Iowa.

According to the 2015 report, the current rate of growth is only 1.72 percent, whereas a rate of 1.75 percent annually is needed to meet the demands of a growing population that will reach 9.7 billion in 2050.

“The imperative to improve productivity and food security has never been more urgent,” says Dr. Margaret Zeigler, executive director of the Global Harvest Initiative at this year’s World Food Prize gathering. “Together we must nearly double the output of food feed fiber and fuel by 2050 to meet the rising demand of a booming middle class.”

Zeigler called for continued investment in science and technology that will spur an increase in agricultural productivity without hurting the environment or contributing to climate change. In the report were steps the U.S. needs to take to get back on track of meeting the world food demand and providing a sustainable food supply. These include the following:

Continue its long tradition of investment in agricultural research and development by mobilizing foundation, private-sector and public resources to increase agricultural research and development spending by 3.73 percent annually. This would result in a 73 percent increase in agricultural output by 2050 through improved productivity, requiring less land, livestock and capital.  

Harness the potential of precision agriculture, and combine it with advances in seed, fertilizer and bio-agriculture technologies to “farm smart and conserve smart.” To take advantage of precision agriculture, broadband access needs to be farm-wide, requiring that high-speed broadband services are extended across rural areas.

Help widely extend modern crop technology, cropland management, and best practices for crop nutrient and tilling management into agriculture production systems so that agriculture can “grow more and emit less.” In addition, extending best practices and technologies for livestock management and manure management helps reduce greenhouse gas emissions while providing the food needed for a growing global population.

Global Harvest Initiative also analyzed the productivity growth in Zambia, a country that is diversifying its agricultural production systems and building its capacity to become a regional breadbasket in southern Africa.

Zeigler was joined by a panel of industry representatives, who contributed to the report. Among them:

Colin Bletsky, Vice President of BioAg, Novozymes;

Cory Reed, Vice President of the Intelligent Solutions Group, John Deere;

Dr. Keith Fuglie, Economist, USDA Economic Research Service;

Ruth Ann Myers, National Vice President, Future Farmers of America (FFA);

Dr. Phyllis Muturi, lecturer in the Department of Agricultural Resource Management at the University of Nairobi and award visiting scholar at Iowa State University

The Gap Report is published each year to track industry progress toward meeting food goals. The report uses a specialized measure, Total Factor Productivity (TFP) which is the ratio of agricultural outputs (gross crop and livestock output) to inputs (land, labor, fertilizer, feed, machinery and livestock).

GHI’s member companies are DuPont, Elanco Animal Health, John Deere, Monsanto Company, The Mosaic Company and Novozymes.  GHI is joined by 13 Consultative Partner Organizations. They include 9b Group, ACDI/VOCA, Congressional Hunger Center, Conservation International, Farm Foundation, GAIN, Inter-American Institute for Cooperation in Agriculture, the Inter-American Development Bank, Purdue Agriculture, The Nature Conservancy, New Markets Lab, Robert B. Daugherty Water for Food Institute and World Wildlife Fund.

Download a full copy of the report.

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