The Decade Ahead: Societal Trends Will Leave Their Mark On Agriculture

According to the Farmers’ Almanac, Jan. 1, 2021, was the “official” start of the new decade. Many will disagree as they think it started 366 days prior. The truth is that one of the greatest mathematical mess-ups in history forces us to recognize that all decades, centuries and millennia begin with year No. 1. That’s because in the age of the modern calendar, there was no year zero. Who knew?

Not that it really matters, but 2020 would have been an awful way to kick off a new decade. For those of us in agriculture, the past decade has been weird and wacky to say the least. It makes you wonder what’s in store for the next 10 years. 

Here are some possible hints.

More Meat To Be Meatless

$8.15 billion by 2026. That’s the expected size of the global meat substitute market—double what it was in 2018. Even something as sacred as bacon is not safe from this vegan blitzkrieg as Hooray Foods has introduced plant-based bacon. When they go after your bacon, you know it’s serious! The ability to pivot as a producer to these more diverse markets will be essential to future survival and success.  

GigaWatts, Not Gallons

More than 39% of the U.S. corn crop went to produce ethanol in 2019. A report by The Heritage Foundation says the Renewable Fuel Standard mandate’s effect on corn prices ranges between 8% and 34%.

The bigger question—what happens when more and more cars don’t run on gasoline? In July 2020, Tesla became the world’s most valuable car company at a valuation of $208 billion, and it doesn’t produce a single automobile powered by an internal combustion engine. All new cars and passenger trucks in California must be zero-emission vehicles by 2035.

Unless someone figures out how to make a battery out of corn, ethanol is out, and electric is in.

Zero-Dollar Corn Crop

At a Farm Journal conference, I heard John Ellis speak about his book “The Zero Dollar Car.” Its premise was in exchange for your car sensor data, you could receive large discounts to the base price of your car. Already, your “rain-sensing” wipers tell The Weather Channel it is raining at mile marker 27. And Google Maps knows you’re in a traffic jam. 

There is a growing realization that data from all aspects of our lives—personal to professional—has immense value. As consumers become more woke regarding the food they purchase, data into how their food is produced is becoming almost as tangible as the product itself. 

If per chance it is farmers who become more woke on data rights and ownership in the next decade, then maybe—just maybe—zero-dollar corn might be possible. 

We Are The World

Everybody knows the song. “We Are The World” was a charity single recorded in 1985 by the decade’s super pop stars. Its cause was to help stamp out starvation on the continent of Africa. The ‘80s were a decade of causes from Live Aid to Willie Nelson’s Farm Aid. 

Interestingly, society’s charitable causes have shifted from helping people directly to helping the “world” itself—better known as planet Earth. Words such as sustainability, regenerative agriculture and carbon credits have become part of the new, progressive producers’ vocabulary. Saving the planet from ourselves has become the common thread that is influencing multiple, if not nearly all, aspects of our society and daily lives. You can see it in the burgers you eat to the cars you will drive to the tech, biotech and consumer goods companies that covet your data to prove to the world that they too are saving it. Buckle up. Changes are coming fast and furious, and the decade will be done before you know it.


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