ESCANABA - As the population of the world continues to increase, so will the need for more food production, said Michigan's agriculture director while addressing area farmers at an educational seminar in Escanaba Tuesday.
By 2050, the world population is expected to increase by 34 percent, creating a need to increase food production by 70 percent, explained Jamie Clover Adams, director of the Michigan Department of Agriculture and Rural Development.
At the invitation of the Michigan State University Extension Service of Delta County, Adams presented an update on the state's agriculture industry during the annual "Ag for Tomorrow" conference held at Bay College.
Participants at the day-long event came from across the region and included farmers of livestock and crops, as well as others involved in the agricultural industry.
MSU organized informational classes on farm business planning, market opportunities, greenhouses and drought management. Other topics included land leasing, biodiesel production, community food systems, wildfire protection and food safety.
The safety of food products is the number one priority of Michigan's agriculture department, Adams said during her luncheon speech. Other priorities include protection of animal and plant health, taking care of the environment, consumer protection and rural development.
Adams was appointed by Gov. Rick Snyder last July to lead the department. She said the food and agriculture industry contributes more than $91 billion to the state's economy and employs 923,000 people.
Michigan leads the nation in producing 18 commodities, she said. More than 300 commodities are produced on a commercial basis throughout the state, including products from the Upper Peninsula, she added.
Increasing the economic impact of food and agriculture continues to be a goal for the industry as well as the department, Adams said. This includes doubling exports, increasing jobs in the industry, increasing sustainable food and agriculture systems, and improving access to healthy foods, she explained.
Partnerships with other agencies will play an important role in the department achieving the above goals and meeting future food needs, the director said. For example, alignments need to be made with economic, environmental, conservation, transportation and funding programs, she said.
Adams also noted more people need to be encouraged to work in the food and agriculture sectors to meet future needs in the industry.
"It's nice to see young people back in agriculture," Adams said, commenting on some young faces in the audience. "There are a lot of opportunities in agriculture."
Adams also urged those in attendance to participate in the Michigan Agriculture Environmental Assurance Program, also known as MAEAP. The volunteer program helps farms of all sizes and commodities prevent or minimize agriculture pollution risks through education and assessments, she said, reminding farmers about new spill prevention legislation going into effect this spring.
Some courses offered at Tuesday's conference apply as credit toward the MAEAP verification program. Topics included hay production, grazing strategies, understanding U.P. soils, and insect and disease management.