CSU joins Colorado farmers, ranchers to tackle feeding the world | TheFencePost.com

CSU joins Colorado farmers, ranchers to tackle feeding the world

Craig Beyrouty
For the Fence Post

In agriculture, we work each day with a sense of purpose. Our purpose is gaining urgency.

Just this fall, our global population passed the 7 billion mark. It is expected to top 9 billion by 2050.

In the College of Agricultural Sciences, we know the grand challenge of our time is meeting food demands for a booming global population. This urgent challenge propels our sense of purpose.

Feeding the world has never been a more complex undertaking than it is today, or than it will be in the years ahead.

Agriculture is called upon to double food production by 2050 to meet global food demands. Yet we must fulfill this grand challenge while conserving critical natural resources worldwide – the air, soil, water, wildlife and land that are essential to our collective future.

Many of the most pressing challenges facing humankind have solutions rooted in modern agriculture and agbioscience, according to “Power and Promise,” a report released in August by Battelle, the world’s largest independent research and development organization.

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“There is no other arena of economic activity, or field of science and innovation, that so directly addresses human survival and quality of life, global economic development, and prospects for an environmentally sustainable future,” said Simon Tripp, the study’s lead author.

In our college at Colorado State University, we know that contributing to global food security, quality of life and resource conservation begins right here in Colorado.

Our sense of purpose is deeply connected to Colorado agriculture, and we join Colorado farmers and ranchers in understanding our shared role in helping to feed the world.

Already, Colorado’s agricultural industry contributes about $20 billion in annual economic activity – a key sign of work toward our shared goals. Food exports form a significant part of this activity: In the first seven months of 2011, Colorado’s agricultural exports climbed 20 percent compared with the same time last year, to $718 million, the state Department of Agriculture reported. Exports of Colorado beef, dairy and grain helped drive the increase.

So it’s clear that Colorado agriculture is well-positioned to contribute to global food demand and other pressing problems.

The College of Agricultural Sciences is well-positioned to help. We are a foundational college at CSU, and a signature college in Colorado – the only agricultural college in the state with a full slate of undergraduate and graduate degree programs, as well as research and outreach activities.

Our enrollment numbers reflect this important role in Colorado. During the past two decades, from 1990 to 2010, undergraduate and graduate student enrollment in the College of Agricultural Sciences grew from 952 to 1,514. That’s an increase of 60 percent in the past 20 years. And our enrollment continues to climb: This fall, we counted 1,549 students in our college.

Our purpose is preparing these students to think critically and creatively about solutions to food needs here and abroad, so they’re ready to step up as the new generation of agricultural professionals and leaders. As our student enrollment has grown, so has student interest in food systems, contemporary agricultural science and specialty programs that are central to addressing the grand challenge of our time.

Our college also finds purpose in research that leads to new knowledge and new innovations that allow agriculture to produce more food for our world while protecting our environment. We know that Colorado is ground zero for much of this work: Our state’s farmers and ranchers face issues such as water scarcity, harsh climatic conditions, and land pressures that arise from population growth. Thus, the research our college pursues is essential to solving problems here, and in many other parts of the world.

Our sense of purpose also is founded in our land-grant mission of working with Colorado agriculturalists to put science-based discoveries into action. We know that, in collaborating with state producers, we will together boost our food system, contribute to quality of life, enhance our environments and advance economic well-being – all while conserving resources.

In the face of these complex modern challenges, our sense of purpose has never been more important.

Craig Beyrouty is the dean of the College of Agricultural Sciences at Colorado State University.