DECATUR, ILL. — Patricia Woertz, chairman, chief executive officer and president of Archer Daniels Midland Co., will deliver a speech to global business leaders, government officials and other leading authorities at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, highlighting how agriculture may help meet growing needs for food, feed, fiber, and clean, renewable fuels, if industry and governments work together to stimulate productivity and improve the infrastructure that connects crops with global markets.
Ms. Woertz will participate in the Consumer Industry Governor’s private dinner discussion on "A New Vision for Agriculture" on Jan. 30, and will speak on a public panel, "Unlocking the Food Chain," on Jan. 31.
"Those in attendance at Davos may differ on some issues, but we can all agree that agriculture — a 10,000-year-old human innovation — must play a vital role in addressing some of our most pressing modern challenges," Ms. Woertz said.
Observing that the developing world has lagged far behind developed nations in agricultural productivity, Ms. Woertz will call for a comprehensive framework for growth to help narrow the gap. That framework would include policies and programs aimed at supporting best agronomic practices — including the adoption of efficient, environmentally sound and regionally appropriate farming, irrigation and fertilization methods, as well as the use of advanced seed technology.
The framework also would entail significant new public- and private-sector investments in agricultural infrastructure.
"Both sectors must continue developing critical transportation, processing and storage assets to ensure we’re able to handle tomorrow’s larger crop yields, collect and store food crops and biomass, and continue delivering crops from surplus to deficit regions in a timely and efficient way," she said.
Ms. Woertz noted that ADM has committed more than $3 billion in recent years to building or expanding its processing plants and to growing its elevator and transportation networks.
In order to demonstrate the large-scale productivity gains that could result under these favorable conditions, Ms. Woertz pointed to calculations derived from a recent global acreage survey.
"Taking into account the fact that growing conditions and other factors vary greatly from place to place, we looked at what would happen if all 15 of the world’s top producing nations or regions were able to achieve somewhere between 70 and 80 percent of the best yields on record," she said. "The results were illuminating: on lands currently in production, we would see an increase of up to 50% in global maize production, growth of up to 52% in worldwide wheat production, and an increase of as much as 41% in rapeseed production."
She said past gains in agricultural productivity support such ambitious targets: between 1981 and 2007, world maize production grew 56%, while farmland dedicated to maize grew less than 10%.
"That’s the equivalent of creating 61 million ‘virtual hectares’ of arable land," Ms. Woertz said.
And in the past 10 years, she added, farmers were able to meet sharp increases in demand for maize, meat and soybeans with just 4% growth in crop area.
"We have perhaps a once-in-a-generation opportunity to usher in a new ‘Golden Age’ for agricultural growth," Ms. Woertz said. "We can’t let current conditions derail innovation and investment.
"Both history and our assessment of the vast potential today tell us we can meet the world’s growing need for food, fiber and energy in a sustainable way. I believe the world community is up to the challenge and I look forward to advancing this vital work with industry, government and civil society leaders."