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State Stix

How to achieve global food security

In the developed market economies, reduce incentives to produce huge food surpluses.

In developing countries, increase incentives to produce more food.

Throughout the world, design incentives to conserve and enhance the agricultural resource base.

Source: Our Common Future. The World Commission on Environment and Development, 1987.

Corn and soybeans 'good'; wheat 'excellent'

Illinois October crop estimates:

Corn — 122 bushels per acre; 1.305 billion bushels.

Soybeans — 39 bushels per acre; 341.205 million bushels.

Wheat — 59 bushels per acre (tied with 1987 for best on record); 105.020 million bushels — largest on record.

Source: John Unger, Illinois Agricultural Statistics Service, Springfield.

Harvests look good worldwide

(millions of metric tons)
Source: World Food Needs and Availabilities, 1989/90: Summer Update. U.S. Department of Agriculture, Washington, D.C.

But we eat more than we grow

Even with an 8 percent increase in the world grain harvest in 1989/90, consumption will outdo production. World consumption continues to rise, driven by rising incomes and rising populations. But production was hit hard by the drought of 1988. Grain stocks at the end of 1989/90 are projected to be only 288 million metric tons, the lowest since 1974-75.

Wheat and rice supplies are the tightest, and prices are likely to rise. Wheat stores are expected to drop to 111 million metric tons by the end of 1989/90 growing season. That's the lowest since records started being kept in the early 1960s.

Source: Same as above.

World consumption of cereal grains in relation to production

(millions of metric tons)
1986/87: 1655.0 (29.2 million less)
1987/88: 1664.9 (58.5 million more)
1988/89 (forecast): 1652.6 (99.8 million more)
1989/90 (forecast): 1683.7 (12.7 million more)

Source: Same as above.

Should we plant 'fence row to fence row' like in the 1970s?

"Wheat [supply] is down three years in a row. But we're in a world economy now. We have to look at other exporting countries and at prices. I don't think we'll ever see a return back to the 1970s. We got into the short-term approach then. The result was too much grain. Everybody got out of the cattle business and used land for corn. The Conservation Reserve Program is correcting those errors."

Source: Dan Towery, Sangamon County Soil and Conservation District.

Sustainable biotechnology?

Researchers should try to create a broad range of new grain, forage, legume and tree crops for small, labor-intensive systems employing many farmers. New crops might include legumes with increased nitrogen-fixing capacity and cold-tolerant crops that germinate in early spring and get ahead of the weeds. It would also be helpful to find new uses for forages, legumes and tree crops that are added to rotations or grown on marginal land.

Source: Choices for the Heartland, Center for Rural Affairs. Walthill, Neb.

The problem is natural limits

"A worldwide scarcity of cropland and irrigation water, combined with a diminishing response to the use of additional chemical fertilizer, is slowing the growth in world food output. Meanwhile, 88 million mouths are added to the world's population each year. Now there's also evidence that the cumulative effects of environmental degradation are showing up at harvest time. Deforestation, for example, is leading to increased rainfall runoff and crop-destroying floods. Soil erosion is slowly undermining the productivity of one-third of the world's cropland."

Source: World Watch, September/October 1989.

The problem is distribution

"The world's nonrenewable natural resources, such as land, water and energy, appear sufficient to feed a growing population at a gradually improving standard of living, assuming that world population stablizes sometime around the end of the next century. . . . Resources, however, are unevenly distributed, resulting in often prolonged, though localized shortages. . . . Probably the most important changes in demand for food in the past have arisen from altered policies affecting prices, incomes and income distribution. They will continue to exert major influences."

Source: World Agriculture. Situation and Outlook Report. Special Issue. "Are We Approaching a World Food Crisis Again?" USDA, Washington, D.C.

Not to worry

"As low-income, agriculture-dominated countries develop to higher levels of per capita income, food demand may be expected to grow faster than population. A vast movement of population into the medium-income stage would test the supply responsiveness of the world's major food exporters.

"However, such a phenomenon appears unlikely within the next decade. Many countries have been plagued by deteriorating terms of trade, soaring external debt and increasing debt service obligations, that have constrained and absorbed income growth."

Source: Same as above.

General funds comfortable

The general funds balance at the end of September was $404,780 million. The average daily available balance was $520.031 million.

Source: Office of the Comptroller.

U.S. and Illinois: jobless rate up

In September a big drop in manufacturing employment (especially in auto plants) pushed the nation's seasonally adjusted unemployment rate to 5.3 percent from 5.2 percent in July and August. The Illinois rate rose to 6.2 percent, up from 5.9 percent in August.

There were 5.94 million people in the state's labor force in September; 5.58 million were working and 368,000 were unemployed.

Final July unemployment rates in the state's metro areas were:

Aurora-Elgin, 4.5 percent.
Bloomington-Normal, 4.4 percent.
Champaign-Urbana-Rantoul, 3.4 percent.
Chicago, 4.9 percent.
Davenport-Rock Island-Moline (Illinois sector), 5.6 percent.
Decatur, 6.6 percent.
Joliet, 5.9 percent.
Kankakee, 6.9 percent.
Lake County, 3.2 percent.
Peoria, 5.2 percent.
Rockford, 7.2 percent.
Springfield, 3.9 percent.
St. Louis (Illinois sector), 6.2 percent.

Source: Department of Employment Security.

Margaret S. Knoepfle

November 1989 | Illinois Issues | 6

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