There’s probably very few of us who have not heard comments about concerns on how to feed the world’s increasing population in the future. The Food and Agriculture Organization estimates that by 2050 the planet will reach 9.1 billion people, 34 percent higher than today’s. We have also heard that most of this increase will occur in developing countries. However we know there are areas even in the US that might experience food shortages, which may even be worsened as a result of climate variability. Migration from rural to urban areas continues to happen and will not be helping this issue. Compared to nearly half of the population living in the cities nowadays, it is estimated that by 2050 about 70 percent will be urban. To be able to feed this more urban population, food production must also increase by 70 percent. From 2.1 billion tons of cereal grains produced in the world yearly we will need to rise to 3 or more. From 200 million tons of beef produced today will have to increase to 470. In this scenario agricultural sustainability coupled with precision agriculture are going to become more critical than today. There are states that inadvertently have been contributing towards food security and South Dakota is one of them. Local agriculture in the state has a significant impact on the state’s economy. With more than 19 million acres of cropland and 23 million acres of pastureland, agriculture contributes $20.9 billion of economic impact yearly and employs over 80,000 South Dakotans.

Agribusiness Friendliness and People

One thing that sets the state apart is the local attitude towards agricultural businesses. South Dakota ranked number one in 2014 as an agribusiness-friendly state according to an index created by Colorado State University. The Agribusiness Friendliness Index focuses on each state’s economic climate towards agriculture and takes into consideration local and state government policies, geography, climate and other factors. Four indexes compose the overall score: 1. Agricultural input index 2. Crops, Fruits and Vegetables Index, 3. Meats and Livestock Products Index, and 4. Agricultural processing index. South Dakota ranked first or second in all four. Indexes are scored through 38 variables which are: Government regulation, Government Efficiency of Revenues & Expenditures, Government services, and Business climate.

One other aspect which is even more important is the characteristics of the people that reside and make their living in the state. According to a Gallup poll South Dakota is number two in the nation in well-being trailing only to North Dakota. The Well-Being Index tracks factors such as emotional health, work environment, physical health, healthy behaviors, and basic necessities. North Dakota scored the highest overall, and particularly in work environment and physical health. The difference however is that the high scores of North Dakota were attributed to the strong boom in job growth (fifth year in a row) associated with the oil industry. South Dakota on the other hand has agriculture and tourism as significant drivers.

Global Food Production

Current discussions about corn utilization focus on exports, feeding livestock and ethanol production. In some countries and even in North America corn constitutes a staple of the human diet. Even in the US corn grain enters the human diet through different products. With 5.3 million acres of corn planted and 6.2 million tons of grain harvested South Dakota was 6th in the US during 2014, trailing only Iowa, Illinois, Nebraska, Minnesota, and Indiana in that order. Corn grain harvested in 2014 by the 6 leading states in million bushels was as follows: Iowa 2,367, Illinois 2,350, Nebraska 1,602, Minnesota 1,177, Indiana 1,085, and South Dakota 787. One can estimate per capita corn production per state from these figures and the human population in each. As of July 2014 the six corn-producing leading states had the following population: Iowa 3,107,126, Illinois 12,880,580, Nebraska 1,881,503, Indiana 6,596,855, Minnesota 5,457,173, and South Dakota 853,175. Per capita corn production per state was then: Indiana 164, Illinois 182, Minnesota 216, Iowa 762, Nebraska 851, and South Dakota 922. Corn and corn products consumption in the US per person is estimated at 34 pounds (0.6 bushels) yearly. However this will not modify the ranking between states since consumption per capita is the same across all. Net global contribution to food security shows that once corrected for internal use South Dakota leads the nation with 888 bushels of corn per person.

If we take a look at soybeans something similar occurs. The majority of all soybeans grown in the US leaves the farm trucked to a grain elevator, and then by rail or barge shipped to destinations elsewhere. The major soybean-growing states during 2014 in million bushels were: Illinois 547.7, Iowa 505.7, Indiana 307.4, Minnesota 305.3, Nebraska 288.9, Ohio 254.1, Missouri 193.9, and South Dakota 229.9. Per capita production in bushels for the eight leading states is as follows: Ohio 21.9 (2014 population = 11,588,612), Missouri 32 (2014 population = 6,063,884), Illinois 42.5, Indiana 46.6, Minnesota 55.9, Nebraska 153.5, Iowa 162.7, and South Dakota 269.5. Again South Dakota produced during 2014 nearly 66% more soybeans per capita than the closest state which was Iowa.

Cattle production suffered a more or less generalized retraction during 2014. South Dakota was seventh in the country in cattle and calves on farms trailing closely to Iowa and Missouri. The leader continued to be Texas with 16.86 million head, followed by Nebraska 6.15, Kansas 5.8, California 5.25, Oklahoma 4.3, Missouri 3.8, Iowa 3.7, and South Dakota 3.65. When cattle and calves on farms are considered on a per capita basis South Dakota again leads the country with 4.27 animals per person with the rest ranked as follows: Nebraska 3.27, Kansas 1.99 (2014 population = 2,902,541), Iowa 1.19, Oklahoma 1.1 (2014 population = 3,885,673), California 0.14 (2014 population = 38,668,076), Missouri 0.63, and Texas also 0.63 (2014 population = 26,841,349).

These figures clearly show South Dakota leads the country on per capita production of the US major crops and cattle. Agricultural areas destined to produce efficiently will be critical as we face increased migration from rural to urban areas. Priority will need to be placed on profitable, highly productive systems that lead to societal stability and are environmentally neutral at worst.