Farm History and Future

In the United States, farms spread from the colonies westward along with the settlers. The primary crops were wheat which grew well even in the cool and dry regions and corn which was used as feed for hogs and dairy cattle. Farms were scaled primarily for subsistence of a single family with some extra production for tradable goods. The invention of the tractor and mechanized harvesting equipment in the mid twentieth century revolutionized agricultural production and propelled the United States as exporter to the world of agricultural products.

Farm ManagementAmerica’s farmers also benefited from the introduction and broad adoption of scientific agriculture that emanated from state funded land grant universities and federally funded agriculture programs. In the 1970’s no-till planting was introduced which enhanced soil conservation and in the 1990’s bio-engineered seeds emerged that greatly increase yields while reducing the need for herbicides and pesticides. In addition, the introduction of GPS based planting and fertilizer application further expands the efficiency of the modern agribusiness operation.

Agriculture in the United States is in the early stages of its next revolution. First, recognition of the apocalyptic impact of global warming is now generally accepted worldwide leading to increased demand for biofuels. Currently the feedstock for biofuels in the United States is corn for ethanol and soybeans for biodiesel. The efficiency of corn based ethanol is improving exponentially as revealed in a recent study published in the Journal of Industrial Ecology. In time, technology will permit the addition of cellulosic biofuels made from switchgrass, cornstalks or other fibrous feed-stocks, but farmland and farmers will still be needed to plant, maintain and harvest these alternative crops.

Second the demographics of world population will lead to continued increased demand for food in a world with shrinking arable land for agriculture production. The world population is projected to grow from 6.7 billion currently to 9 billion by 2040. This population growth will accelerate demand for increased agricultural production and propel the importance of the U.S. agricultural sector.

Ceres Partners envisions that this increasing demand for agriculture products will only be met by ever increasing economies of scale in production, improved technology and expansion of the agribusiness model. Farm operations will continue to consolidate and increase their production acres so that they gain buying power for inputs and efficiently deploy capital invested in equipment. Ceres Partners fits into this growth strategy by providing capital for land acquisition that is leased to these growing agribusinesses that will be the dominant and successful farmers of the future.

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