Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Sustaining Our Global Food Supply

By Bas Hargrove, Senior Policy Representative

About 10,000,000,000. That will be the population on earth in 2050. How do we feed 10 billion people? How do we conserve the lands and waters on which all life depends while feeding all these folks? These questions have been on my mind lately as the Conservancy has taken an increasingly hard look at the role of agriculture and conservation. As part of that increased emphasis on sustainable agriculture, I’ve begun leading the Conservancy’s Grasslands Conservation Network in addition to my policy work in Idaho.

Gary and Sue Price of the 77 Ranch accept the 2013 NCBA Environmental 
Stewardship Award.  Photo ©NCBA

Earlier this month I joined several thousand ranchers and others involved in the beef industry at the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association (NCBA) annual convention. In many ways, I was a stranger in a strange land. Hundreds of booths on the trade show floor touted specialized products ranging from new-fangled hay balers to portable ultrasounds that identify sex of fetal calves.

I was there representing the Conservancy on NCBA’s Environmental Stewardship Award selection committee, comprised of representatives from industry, US Fish and Wildlife Service, the Natural Resource Conservation Service, and conservation. Each year the committee selects seven regional winners and a single national winner from hundreds of nominated cattle operations.

Coming from Idaho – a battlefront for decades-long range wars – it was refreshing to meet the Environmental Stewardship Award winners. These seven operators from across the U.S. impressed me with their dedication to stewarding the land, pragmatic approach to conservation, and pride in winning the award. And no one impressed me more than the 2013 national award winners, Gary and Sue Price of Blooming Grove, Texas.

While conservationists and cattlemen may not always agree about land and water management, I am certain we won’t solve our global challenges without working together.

Let’s face it – hunger trumps nature for most people. If we conservationists are going to succeed in sustaining the natural systems that sustain humanity, our solutions will involve people, and particularly the people who live on the land and produce our food.

How do we conserve the lands and waters on which all life depends while feeding all 10 billion people?  That’s a work in progress. I do know that we’re not going to get there without working with folks like Gary and Sue Price who are doing their level best to produce the food we eat and take care of the land and water that sustains us.

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