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Anyone can read the daily headlines and see that agriculture producers in the United States face many challenges and often struggle for survival. Farm Journal Corp., Philadelphia, held its eighth Farm Journal Forum late in 2003 to discuss these challenges. Themed "Agriculture's Challenge: Success or Survival?", the meeting brought together company executives, legislators, ag organizations and concerned producers.

Hugh Grant, Monsanto president and CEO, demonstrates the amount of available farmland with an apple slice during his presentation at the Farm Journal Forum.
During the two-day forum, many options for survival were discussed. Hugh Grant, president and CEO for Monsanto Company, offered his thoughts on success versus survival, saying the way to do both in agriculture today is to "feed more people healthier food with less impact on the environment."

Although this may be a lofty aspiration, many companies and organizations presented plans of cooperation and innovation to help make Grant's words of advice a reality.

Erik Fyrwald, group vice president of DuPont Agriculture and Nutrition, offered several examples of new innovations that could bring more profitability to producers. One example is a joint venture with General Mills formed with the purpose of creating a better-tasting soybean for the growing soy foods market.

Charlie Fischer, former president and CEO of Dow AgroSciences, also spoke of several innovations from his company such as healthier sunflower and canola oils, food safety products and Cargill-Dow's NatureWorks™ PLA, a commercially viable plastic made from renewable resources.

But despite these opportunities, Fischer pointed out that one of the challenges in innovation is the high cost of development. He explained that regulations cost a manufacturer who is registering a crop protection molecule about $84 million and approximately nine years to bring the product to market. This cost is surely felt down the chain.

Blairo Maggi, governor of the Brazilian state of Mato Grosso, told attendees of the Forum that crop production in his state will increase to 2.5 times that of 2002.
As an example of the role biotechnology can play in the future, Grant noted that Monsanto has inserted a gene from algae into canola. Scientists have found that this type of algae is the source of Omega-3 fatty acids found in some fish. In Monsanto's field trials, the canola plants have expressed 30 percent Omega-3 fatty acids, which are believed to have numerous health benefits. Despite these breakthroughs in biotechnology, Grant stressed to the audience that biotech is not the panacea for feeding future populations, but just one part of the solution.

Sonja Hillgren, Farm Journal senior vice president/editorial and Al Pell, AgDay-TV anchor, greet Agriculture Secretary Ann M. Veneman.
Consumer health is a high priority for many companies and government agencies, including the USDA. Ann M. Veneman, Agriculture Secretary, spoke at the Forum about many agriculture issues, including the obesity crisis. She said that two-thirds of U.S. adults are overweight and 15 percent of children are obese, with 300,000 deaths per year being caused by obesity. By 2010, it is expected that 40 percent of the U.S. population will be obese, Veneman said.

With this kind of problem looming, innovators in agriculture are challenged to develop food solutions and opportunities that can lead to survival for farmers as well as the American population. AM

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