Doyle, RB, Keeping kids in agriculture, Invited Speaker at the National Australian Fodder Industry Association Conference "Stacks of Opportunities", 7-8 August 2012, Hotel Grand Chancellor, Hobart, Tasmania (2012) [Conference Extract]
The challenge we face today is that of a rapidly growing global population, forecast to increase to over 9 billion by 2050; this will make massive demands on those working in agricultural production. It has been estimated that by 2050 world demand for cereals alone will increase by 50% (Lal 2010). This problem is magnified when viewed in the context of the competing demands for land coming from biofuels, urban development and land degradation. Our farmers also face the challenges of Peak-Oil and Peak-P driving up production costs. If these difficulties weren’t enough in the Australian context, a resources boom together with the widening rural – urban disconnect paints a major challenge to keep the bright young minds of Australia’s exuberant youth living and working in agriculture. The son of a country school teacher, I’ve been in and around agriculture for most of my life growing up in rural NZ with its rich array of formative rural experiences. I have been left bridging the rural-urban divide ever since; watching it grow progressively wider. Perhaps the rural sector do their jobs too well and we live in a world of cheap and abundant food and fibre; as our ever expanding waistlines testify! But situation is changing and global food security is becoming an international issue capturing the attention of governments around the world. In Australia 26% of the population have university training while in the agricultural sector this is less than 8% (Pratley, 2012). The figures are 30% and 25% respectively in the USA. Unfortunately the post-Dawkins era of a "demand-driven" funding model for universities this has seen a steady decline in the numbers of university courses in agriculture, horticulture and agribusiness; with many disappearing or being relegated to combined degrees. In Australia a 6:1 jobs:graduate ratio exists on current modelling by the ACDA’s Prof Jim Pratley.