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Food For Thought On Thanksgiving

As we celebrate Thanksgiving in the United States, we’re grateful for farmers who work tirelessly to grow our food. We give thanks too for the bountiful resources we have in North America: productive soils, structured markets, a quality infrastructure and the technology that allows us to keep improving efficiency and yields. Other areas of the world are not as fortunate.

Howard G. Buffett, a speaker at the Borlaug Dialogue symposium during the World Food Prize this fall, has worked extensively in Africa to alleviate hunger. A farmer, philanthropist, and son of Warren Buffett, he is also a gifted photographer, and documented the hunger situation in his book, Fragile – The Human Condition. Through his journey, he discovered that we can’t solve other people’s problems, no matter how much money we spend; people need to be engaged in solving their own problems, with help from others.

Buffett strongly believes in the value of technology, but he also knows that different technology is applicable in different areas. He has learned some important lessons from the projects his foundation has funded, even if the projects didn’t turn out as planned. For example, farmers in underdeveloped countries who convert land into a single crop often put their family at risk; crop diversity is critical to survival of many of these families. If technology is viewed as the only solution, we won’t succeed, believes Buffett.

It’s not realistic to think we can take technology into undeveloped areas without the necessary resources and assume it will work for everyone in every place. For example, farmers in other countries frequently save seed for planting the following year – they simply can’t afford to buy seed every year.

A major problem in underdeveloped countries is that too much grain is left in the field during harvest. While these people desperately need equipment with the technology to harvest more grain, they have neither the resources (access to financing or energy/fuel) nor knowledge (technical training) to use the machinery properly.

Technology must be adopted in ways that create value for the farmer and for the soil, and that’s the essence of continuous improvement.  The more effectively we employ technology in North America, the better position we’re in to help people in underdeveloped countries. We must produce more with fewer resources, and our efforts to provide the right technology to the right areas are never-ending.

Buffett cites the “Agriculture at the Crossroads” report and says it needs to be taken seriously. “It isn’t about making money – it’s about helping people survive. Think about how fragile our world is and realize how important it is that we get this right. We share this planet, and we must feed the world.”

Applying the “right technology” varies from field to field, farm to farm and country to country. True leaders in agriculture anticipate and recognize those differences. Case IH knows that with a growing world population, we have a responsibility to deliver the right solutions in the ways in which they will do the most good. We work closely with our customers to help them adapt and adopt new technology, optimizing value for everyone. That’s what “Being Ready” is all about.

For more information on the World Food Prize and its 2011 winners, take a look at our “Providing Food For All” post a few weeks ago.

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