Lecture at WSU focus how farmers, land-grant institutions play major role feeding the world

PULLMAN, WA - As the world's population continues to climb, growing enough food to feed everyone becomes more and more difficult.

The head of U.S. Food and Agriculture was in Pullman Thursday to talk about the problems that come with population growth. Rachel Dubrovin explains why he says farmers and land-grant institutions are a large part of the solution.

Sonny Ramaswamy is the director of the U.S. Department of Agriculture's National Institute of Food and Agriculture, or NIFA.

"We have, as you know, an aging farm population, and fewer people are wanting to go into the farming enterprise," said Ramaswamy.

On Thursday Ramaswamy discussed population growth and its effects on global issues. The presentation packed a lecture hall at Washington State University, even though it's the middle of summer. He explained the world population is expected to reach nine-point-five-billion-people by the year 2050.

"Today we got 7 billion people, 9.5, that's about two and a half billion people more," said Ramaswamy. "And with diminishing land and water resources and droughts that we're seeing, things like that, we're going to double our food production."

Ramaswamy said he's confident that we can take on that task, but it'll require more public funding towards research.

"With today's knowledge, we're going to be hard pressed," said Ramaswamy.

He said it's up to land-grant institutions like WSU and the University of Idaho to find ways to help farmers succeed.

"The sciences that they're doing is not some high-falutin stuff that nobody cares for, the science that they do is based on the user, that it, the farmer, the livestock producer," said Ramaswamy.

Ramaswamy also offered some advice to farmers. He said they should reach out to land grant institutions, and let them know about the struggles and needs of producers.

"They should feel like it's their institution," said Ramaswamy. "They have ownership in it. So if you have ownership in it, then you have the right to go ahead and ask for, and if you're not getting it, demand, what needs to be done."

The National Institute of Food and Agriculture is the USDA's premier funding agency that supports research and outreach programs across the country. Ramaswamy oversees 350 employees and a budget of $1.3 billion dollars.
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