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FARE-talk is to provide an enduring conversation about contemporary topics relevant to food, agricultural, and resource economics.

The Future of Food - November 7th, 2017

[Introductory music]

Brady Deaton: Welcome to FARE Talk where we set out to provide enduring discussions on contemporary topics relevant to our economy with particular emphasis on food, agriculture and the environment. My name is Brady Deaton Junior of the Department of Food, Agriculture and Resource Economics at the University of Guelph. I will be your host. [music ends]

Brady Deaton: Today is November 7th and today we're going to be discussing the future of food with Doctor Jason Lusk. Jason is Distinguished Professor and head of the Department of Agriculture Economics at Purdue University. He needs no introduction for those of us in the field. He is a Fellow of the Agriculture and Applied Economics Association and he most recently served as president. Thanks, Jason, for being here today.

Jayson Lusk: Yeah. Hi, Brady. Thanks for having me on.

Brady: Yesterday at the University you gave a thought provoking lecture titled "The Future of Food" and we've been debating the future of food since the 18th century. So, I thought we'd begin there. Talk to me about that.

Jayson Lusk: Yeah, so sometimes when we think about the future, it's useful to look at the past and what people were worried about in terms of their future problems, which became our present. But really I think going back to intellectuals throughout the last two to three hundred years, Thomas Malthus is probably the most well-known of those. He was writing in the last 1700s, early 1800s and he is well-known and we've heard of the Malthusian concern but basically the concern was that we're gonna have increasing population and then that population is gonna continue to be applied to a fixed amount of land and as a result, we're gonna have this thing called diminishing returns, that the amount of food that's gonna be produced per unit of labor applied to that land, is gonna fall. And so the concern is, you will end up with this large population that's not able to feed itself or just really on the verge of starvation and that prompted a lot of concern, a lot of writing, a lot of criticism over time.

But it's a concern that really didn't go away. So, we fast forward 100 years, we talk about a British intellectual at the time, who mentioned very similar concerns. They were worried about a growing world population in places like Canada and the United States and he coined the term "the wheat problem" about, you know, his concern was we're gonna run out of wheat to eat, we've got all these developing countries, they're gonna start importing and take the wheat away from those folks that consider themselves part of the developed world then. So, that was about 100 years ago and then we fast forward to almost present day. So, like 1960s and you have writers like Paul Ehrlich, Lester Brown, for example, that were espousing very similar concerns, slightly different focus, but mainly the concern was we're not gonna be able to feed ourselves. We're gonna have some collapse, we got too many people, and we're not gonna have enough resources to feed them all.

So, I think throughout history, that has been the main concern of the leading intellectuals over the years. And what I think is fascinating about that, is that is not the concern of today's leading intellectuals in terms of food and agriculture. In fact, what they have done in large part is look at our food system and called it a broken system, which I think is interesting in a lot of ways, because the food system, despite all of its flaws, has in a lot of ways addressed the concern of Malthus and Sir William Crookes and Paul Ehrlich, that we indeed found ways not only to feed people but to reduce rates of food insecurity and to bring down rates of poverty. And so we really found, you know, were able to live up to the challenges of those leading intellectuals but we seem to have found new challenges that we want to pay attention to for the future.

Brady: Right. Now, I mean, Malthus probably when he looked back, when he was looking back at history, he might have been right. There was, you know, agriculture technology hadn't taken off but then right after he had this concern, the agriculture sector that emerged has been amazing at, at least putting off, if not removing in a sense, the widespread concern that we're not gonna have enough food to eat. But it's still present in some form today. I mean, we still look at the world, some people do, and the say, "Oh, we might not ... How are we gonna feed the population in 20, 30 years?". And I guess what you're saying is it's the current agriculture sector or the contemporary agriculture has done really well addressing that issue and now the intellectual challenge of the day, for some, is not about how do we raise productivity and how do we provide agriculture? It's about other issues. And what are those other issues that they're thinking about?

Jayson Lusk: Yeah, well it's a whole setup concerning ... I should maybe just back up and try to be fair to people like Malthus and Paul Ehrlich. You know, the very concern that they expressed probably prompted people to undertake actions to do something about it. So, it's not to say they weren't right. They could have been right, actually, if we wouldn't have figured out ways to increase productivity and, in fact, Malthus' model is not incorrect, it's just what we did is we shifted that production frontier out over time. There's still diminishing returns, it's just if we can get on a new production function every so often, we'll be more productive.

Brady: Now, I just want to, because in your presentation yesterday you had some really neat ways of characterizing when you say, "Shifting the production function out". I wonder if you could just kind of talk a little bit in more kind of lay terms, if you will, just what you mean by shifting out that production function over time.

Jayson Lusk: Yeah, so, I'll give you a couple of examples. One is data from the U.S. Department of Agriculture and they have an index of use of outputs and inputs for the last 50, 60 years. So, since the late 1940s in the United States, agricultural output has increased almost 170%, so a lot more agricultural output over that time period. But interestingly enough, if you look at the use of inputs, particularly labor in land, but labor in particular has fallen by about 70%. So, in some ways, this is like exactly the opposite of what Malthus' concern is. Not only are we getting more output, we're getting more output while at the same time using much less labor and that's really what productivity is, is more output using fewer inputs. It's one reason I like to say, productivity is really a cornerstone of sustainability. Because if you can get the same amount of output using fewer resources, that's a good thing. We're conserving more resources for the future.

So, that's sort of one measure. Another way, more practical way, perhaps, to think about it is through a little thought experiment and that thought experiment goes like this. Let's say we want to consume the same amount of food, let's pick a category like beef, that we actually ate today, in the year 2017. But we wanted to do it using 1950s technology. And by technology, I mean basically yields. How many more cows, beef cows, would we need to do that? And by my calculations, it's over 15,000,000 more beef cows. And that's literally cows. It's not counting all the steers and heifers that are involved there. If you look at commodity crops like corn, for example, in the United States, we would need over 200,000,000 more acres. We'd need to triple the amount of corn acreage if we wanted to consume the same amount of corn we consume in current day but instead we're using 1950s technology.

So, when you look at it like that, it's just an absolutely incredible increase in progress and achievement in terms of productivity growth. That productivity growth is labor-saving, it's land-saving, but also saves all the resources that would have gone into all those extra acres whether it's water, fertilizer or pesticides or herbicides. We use fewer of those because we can get by on lower amounts of land and other things. So, I think it's really dramatic, the levels of increases. And getting back to your question, about the leading concerns today, in some way this dramatic productivity growth has enabled us to be able to afford to worry about different things. So, the sort of modern food movement, if you will, is a collection of a whole host of best-selling authors, NGOs, celebrity chefs, food writers, and it's not a single issue or a single person.

But by and large I would say they've expressed a whole set of concerns that relate to things all the way from concentration and consolidation in agriculture, so concerns about market power, there are concerns about environmental outcomes, whether it's greenhouse gas emissions or run-off in waterways, for example. Or concerns about human health that we have, in their mind, too many cheap calories in the developing world and yes, we have problems with food insecurity, we also have problems with obesity and diabetes and other things. And so that would be sort of their critique of the food system and I would say, in terms of Maslow's Hierarchy of Needs, once you've been able to say, okay, we can feed most of the people around us, in a way then you can start worrying about some of these other higher order concerns. That's probably where we are in terms of our food, environment, and food culture.

Brady: I want to kind of talk about that some more. First I want to kind of characterize the contemporary agriculture sector. So, we look back, it's been highly productive and you've given some examples of that. Some other points you raised, and I think I'll get this right but you can correct me. We're talking about Jayson's research is in the United States. But these general issues of productivity and the suite of concerns of the modern food movement, they are very much shared in Canada. But using the U.S. data, you say something like 8% of the farms produce about 80% of the food. So, is that right or is the value?

Jayson Lusk: That's exactly right. So one thing is just looking at the number of farms over time, again this U.S. data but before the 1950s there were between six and seven million farms in the U.S. Today's there are around 2,000,000. So, a pretty dramatic reduction. But really at 2,000,000 in my opinion, is a very dramatic overstatement of the number of farms that really contribute a meaningful output and part of it's how the U.S. Department of Agriculture counts a farm. So, they count you as a farm if you have $1,000 in sales. And not even actually actual sales, just the potential to tell $1,000. So, if you have a cow sitting out somewhere on your land, you're a farm, because that's a thousand dollars worth of-

Brady: definition is similarly brought.

Jayson Lusk: But when you really kind of boil it down and say, "Who's producing the food?", the statistic you shared is right. It's about between 7 1/2 and 8% of U.S. farms produce 80% of the value of AG output and when you put that in a numbers term, it's about 160,000 farms are producing 80% of the value of AG output in the U.S. And I think you're exactly right. You'd find very similar numbers in Canada. So, it's really incredible in a lot of ways. Incredible both because it's so concentrated, incredible because so few people can really feed so many and I think it does speak a little bit to some of the concerns of the food movement and that is that most people have very little connection with people on that scale of operation, that it's hard for them to understand why they make the choices they do or what they're doing or how those foodstuffs flow through the food system and so, yeah, it's a food system that is incredibly efficient but one that's also very foreign to a lot of food consumers.

Brady: So, we've got increased productivity. You were happy that we forestalled this Malthusian nightmare, and farmers have done better in terms of their wealth and their income. And yet there are a lot of concerns, which you mentioned as kind of a new food movement and you mentioned some of them. And so I thought one thing I might do is just throw them out to you and you can kind of hit them back as you will. So, I think one of the concerns is just the concern about the size; concerned that 8% of the farms are producing 80% of the product and so some people might say, "Look, that's not an agriculture sector that they want to promote". What's the trade-off there or what concerns you about that kind of a statement?

Jayson Lusk: I would just say again, it really is about trade-offs. It's not that we can't have a food system that has many smaller farms. It's just really about what are we gonna give up to get it? A familiar economic concept is economies of scale that this idea that the bigger you get, your per unit cost can fall. So, if we had many fewer smaller farms, my guess is you'd have higher production costs on the average. So, that would trickle down to probably slightly higher food prices. And you know, is that a trade-off somebody is willing to make? Some people might be willing to make that, others may not. It might depend on your income and food preferences. One other caution and push-back I would say, too, is there are a lot of food and AG technologies that don't make sense unless you're big.

But take something like a combine. You're talking about a piece of equipment that's half a million dollars, if not more. If you're farming five acres, it's not gonna make sense for you to have a half million dollar combine. You need to have some scale for it to make sense, for you to adopt those technologies that can really lower those production costs. That's just one example but you could think of many examples like that whether it's various forms of irrigation or what have you that these technologies, the benefits of them won't really kick in until you can get to be of a certain size and scale and so, again, if we don't want that size, the main consequence of that is gonna be higher production costs and that will ultimately lead to higher food prices. I see that as sort of the key trade-off there.

Another kind of trade-off, too, is what are the opportunities available to people and I think one of the reasons we've experienced, we look across countries. Countries today that are relatively rich are countries that have largely transitioned employment out of agriculture. They have moved to more industrial sector or even, now today, more service sector kind of employment. And countries that are still poor today, are countries that still have large scale agricultural employment. Now, it's hard to necessarily say that's causation there, but I think that would be one concern of mine is if somehow we wanted to say we wanted a more agricultural-based sector that has a lot more employment in agriculture. If you just look at the pattern of economic development across countries, that seems to me to suggest you're gonna have a country that's gonna have lower economic growth overall. So, I think that's another kind of concern that I would probably have.

Brady: Yeah, I lived in a small village in rural Sutu for two years and most people were involved in agriculture and I knew everybody but because there wasn't a store you had to actually go to someone to get the produce. So it was a local as you could get and it was not something that I think we would probably want to emulate.

Jayson Lusk: You didn't stay. You came back.

Brady: Right. Okay, what about the person who says, I just want to kind of throw these at you. Look, the technologies that have led to increased productivity have worsened the environment. I think that's another standard concern that you would hear. How would you shape that discussion or how would you think about the trade-offs in that context?

Jayson Lusk: Yeah, I mean, technology is sort of amoral. It can do good things or sometimes it can have unintended consequences. So, some technologies, to pick a particularly controversial one, let's talk about biotechnology, for example. Some people might say, one of the challenges in even talking about something like biotechnology is a lot of people's aversion to biotechnology has nothing to do with biotechnology. They'll say things like, "Well, I don't like monocultures". Well, yeah, we probably have monoculture regardless of whether we have biotechnology or not. That was happening well before biotech. So, in fact, in some ways, you could look at the technology of biotechnology as enabling farmers to adopt a set of practices that are actually beneficial to the environment. So, for example, herbicide resistant soybeans allows farmers to more low till and no till cropping because you can control weeds much more easily if you have a herbicide you can spray and get rid of those weeds without having to till up the ground.

You know there's a lot of debates about whether herbicide use has increased or decreased. But I think one thing that's quite clear, that the kinds of herbicides we're using now are far less toxic to the environment and to humans than the ones we were using before. So, biotechnology has kind of enabled that. So, there are some concerns, like herbicide resistant weeds and people worry about whether we're in some kind of chemical arms race. Actually, we're always in a race with nature all the time regardless of whether we're using biotechnology or not. I guess I wouldn't accept the premise all the time that technology has worsened environmental outcomes 'cause I think in the cases I just mentioned, I think a strong case could be made actually that it improved environmental outcomes relative to what would have happened otherwise. And so, were some technologies, if we want to call them technologies that we used in the past where they sort of strip-till farming, did that produce some adverse environmental outcomes regarding soil erosion and things? Yeah, it probably did and we probably learned from those and we've learned better ways of plowing and handling the soil.

The other thing I would say there is let's first agree that we think we want to improve the environment and then if we can agree on that premise, I bet there are a lot of technologies that we might agree could help us get there. So, precision AG might be one of those today that by having better data and information about different parts of the field, maybe we don't have to uniformly apply nitrogen fertilizer across that whole field. Maybe we could just apply it in the places where it's needed and then we won't perhaps have as much runoff. That's a technology fix. It's a technology fix that can potentially save the farmer money. It's a technology fix that can potentially help prevent runoff into our waterways and so, to me if I was concerned about environmental outcomes, I'd want a lot of technology fixes.

Brady: All right. Another one, just to kind of keep on the role. I'll stop eventually but we can keep going, right? Because these things are all out there and I think one of the things that I have picked up from your presentation yesterday was your desire to kind of look at these things as trade-offs and try to talk through these issues. So, forgive me. I'll just go. Animal welfare. I think you could almost put the current agriculture system doesn't treat animals well. That would be another critique that you might hear.

Jayson Lusk: Yes. And I think, that actually when you ask people about sort of current, their beef, if you will, sorry the pun, with modern commercial farming. It's actually in all agriculture a lot of people have problems with really, if pressed on the issue. So, again these animal welfare issues are really tricky with a lot of trade-offs. So, one of the things I like to talk to people about is try to think through the story of why it is that we decided to bring animals, mainly hogs and chickens indoors in the first place. And the answer is because, first if all, a lot of parasites and diseases outside. It's cold outside in the winter and so those animals aren't gonna be productive, and they'll in a lot of cases die from weather conditions and predators. And so there's a really logical reason to try to think about bringing those animals indoors in the kinds of systems where they could have a more controlled environment.

You've seen a lot of increases in animal productivity over time, really incredible gains there and so why can you get more pounds per sow, or I can get more eggs per chicken, and part is because the animals live in a more comfortable environment. They have better feed than they had before. They're not being eaten by predators or they don't have pests or viruses that are attacking them. And so we get less expensive food. I think the consequences of our modern production system is animals aren't able to exhibit some of their natural behaviors they had before. If you have an egg-laying chicken in a modern battery cage system that can't dust bathe or scratch on the ground like they might have an urge to do. They maybe can't lay their eggs in a nest like they might have an urge to do. And so, I think there are some trade-offs there in terms of animal well-being that would be worth thinking about and when you get down to the economics, it's again a trade-off of costs.

We can give animals more space, we can give them amenities like perches and nest boxes, but those are more costly. Those will entail higher costs. I just completed a study in some animal housing laws that were passed out in California and went into place in 2015 that essentially that outlawed the battery cage production system. And we were able to compare prices in California before and after this law and also relative to other states that didn't enact this law. And, at least initially, prices were about 30% higher than they were before and then they fell a little bit over time but still about 10% higher than we calculated they would be otherwise. So, that's the trade-off, higher prices. And so, the question is, is it worth it? Is it worth it to pay for that? I think there's a lot of consumers that would say, "Yeah, that's worth it". And there would be a lot of consumers that say, "No, it's not".

Brady: I want to talk about that. Let's talk about the consumer that might say, "Yeah, I'm happy to pay for that trade-off", and the consumer that might say no, and where are they are the income spectrum?

Jayson Lusk: Yeah, so you know a lot of these things do have a very strong income gradient, if you will, that the people who say, "Yeah, I'm willing to pay the extra for the environment", for this "naturalness", or even animal welfare, are gonna tend to be those consumers have higher incomes. In fact, I did this survey question where I asked people about their food values and have them rank a whole set of 12 or so things that could be important to you in terms of food. One of the big issues that shows up there is food price. If you're relatively low income, the price of food is much more important to you than if you're relatively high income. Now that's not shocking to anybody necessarily, but it does tell you on these sorts of issues, those trade-offs, you can expect to probably find strong disagreement about the relative importance to those that people on different ends of the socio-economic spectrum.

I think that's been one of the challenges probably in the policy debate is that often the policy debate are influenced by people who have access to the politicians and have the income and frankly the free time and the connections to influence media and narratives and that those tend to be frankly higher income consumers and there's nothing wrong with that, I'm just saying it may not be representative of the average food consumer. Alas, this is getting a little off your question, but I will say there's also sometimes a little bit of wishful thinking. I mentioned the California example. One of the interesting conundrums there is that this was a state ballot initiative. So, Californians went to the polls to vote to ban these housing practices and this policy passed with 63% of the vote. At the same time, cage-free eggs were for sale in California and had less than a 10% market share.

So, in essence, what happened is people went to the polls, voted to ban something that they regularly purchased and we've tried to do some research to understand why people might do this. We've investigated all sorts of hypotheses. Our best explanation so far is that we don't know why people do this still. But I think that's the conundrum for producers, is to say that sometimes through the political process, you're gonna impose unfunded mandate. And what I mean by that is you're gonna force me to adopt production practices that have been shown through the market but you're not willing to pay a premium for and so, in other words, you're asking me to adopt a production process, you're not gonna pay me for the extra cost for.

So, I think, what are the answers to those problems? I'm not sure but I certainly think there's some of that disagreement that's gonna happen both within agriculture and without but also within consumer groups that differ between sort of low and high income in terms of what's gonna be important to them.

Brady: Let's play around with that idea 'cause I think it's a neat AG governance kind of question and then maybe we can move ... And it kind of anticipates what will the future look like of AG food? But it seems to me that the market comes in and it fills these niches and that's one aspect of it. So, there's a higher, let's say a higher income group that would like to purchase food in a certain manner but that doesn't necessarily preclude a more conventional food. It strikes me that a trade-off that you're trying to make us aware of is that's the market, on that form of governance, essentially, that's working and but that there could be disproportionately kind of deleterious effects on low income people if you said, okay, we're gonna not allow this variation and we're gonna require a particular type of production practice. And do you see that happening? This seems to be a fundamental concern of yours in kind of our discussions. Talk to me a little bit about the future and to the extent that you see this happening in other policies. Maybe give our listeners kind of a broad overview of why you're concerned about this. It's not maybe just a particular policy, but kind of-

Jayson Lusk: Yeah, so I would say some of the overarching themes are the things I've been writing sort of in a public way about is, one, what we've been talking about here, there are trade-offs and understanding those trade-offs, we're not gonna have free lunches. But one of them is directly relevant to what you just asked about is, let's respect other people's choices and preferences and make sure, particularly when it comes to public policy that we don't have a set of policies that are disadvantageous to some of the lower, the people who are in a least advantageous place in society. And so that's one of my concerns and you can call it elitism or you can call it paternalism, those have very negative connotations and I think they carry negative connotations for a reason. That's because most people don't like to be called an elitist or a paternalist.

But at the same time, I'd say a lot of these policies and ways that people have of thinking about the food system are indeed paternalistic and elitist. Now, that doesn't mean there's anything wrong with having alternative food systems that cost more for people who want to pay for it. It also doesn't mean that if there are legitimate externalities that we can't think about ways of internalizing those costs. Speaking of governance, you know there are also opportunities for if real harm has been done from various production practices, there are legal repercussions, lawsuits that can be filed. I think all of that's fair game but, that being said, I think we shouldn't try to put everybody in the same mold and have everybody eat just like I want to. I think that's sort of big push of mine. It's not really probably a critique of so much about the eating advice of the food movement, as it is the policy prescriptions of the food movement.

Although, I would say some of the eating advice people give is probably not made with the best available science. So sometimes I want people to make well-informed choices and as long as you understand the trade-offs then make the choices you want to make and I'm not gonna make fun of you for whatever choices you make one way or the other as long as they're well-informed and articulated. But the reality is, we're all gonna have different preferences, different incomes are gonna lead us to different sets of choices and so that's sort of, I think, an overarching concern of mine. One thing, hinting a little bit about this sort of future of food, I think one of the benefits of technology is, yeah, it can help maybe in some cases, speed consolidation, but when those technologies can be applied to foodstuffs to create more variety and options, which I think is a really good thing for food consumers, that we don't all have to eat the same, we can have more variety, more abundance, and there will be more opportunities for people to find their own unique sets of food choices that really uniquely appeal to them.

It's really the amazing thing about our current market system. If you have a really unique set of preferences about music or a certain genre of film, it would have been hard to satisfy those preferences in the past. There might be a really eclectic or eccentric bookstore or record store in your hometown. But even it probably wouldn't have something that catered to people with really extreme preferences but we have this online economy and we have this diverse food system that really can cater to a whole bunch of really unique sets of preferences and I think that's actually a really good sign that we have. And so, again, I would say respecting people's choices is something that I am a proponent of.

Brady: So, let's talk about the future. So, the present is really characterized, the way we get our food is by a few farms serving a lot of people, highly productive, and we kind of talked about a number of concerns. We could go probably on and on through a continual list of concerns. Will we have enough to feed the world, we have high levels of productivity but we still have levels of food insecurity in Canada and the United States and some people link those to the food system. But, so there's gonna be a debate. I guess there's always been a debate and one of the things you spoke to yesterday was how are we gonna move forward in that discussion? I would just kind of open it up for you to discuss how you think we should go forward as we kind of move into the 21st century.

Jayson Lusk: Yeah, so I think for folks that are sort of inside commercial agriculture today, I talked about several challenges I think that will be had in terms of talking about the advantages of that food system. One of them is the sort of lessened connection with production agriculture that I mentioned before. But it's not just that. It's a whole set of urban versus rural values, I think, about what's important and what we should care about and I think that's gonna be a challenge. So, I think, if trends continue on the path they're on now, we'll continue to have a world that's more urbanized, that's less connected with agriculture and so figuring out what's important to people that aren't like us is a challenge but it's something we gotta do. We gotta figure out how to communicate with people and I think that's one part of it. I think probably also people in the developed world, Canada, U.S., that while these sort of Malthusian concerns are still out there and are still real, they're probably not hitting home for the average consumer.

Yes, there are consumers in Canada and the U.S. that are food insecure and that is a real challenge but for sort of the median consumer, in particular for those consumers that are influencing these discussions about food and agriculture, the sort of mantra that we need to feed the world is probably not a very persuasive one, I would guess. And so, I guess in a lot of ways what I would say is the challenge of communication in the future is going to be even more challenging for traditional agriculture. I don't think those challenges are going to go away and so my thinking on that is we have to think about, as agricultural scientists, what can we do to help meet people where they're at and give them the things they want and I think what we've largely done as food and AG scientists is create science and technology to increase productivity. But I think we have to meet sort of those urban upper class consumers where they're at with their needs and if they're concerned about the environment or health or other things, animal welfare, what can we do in terms of our science to help improve those outcomes, too, with technology.

And I think there are a whole host of really exciting and innovative technologies in linking those with those stated concerns of those food consumers. I think is really one of the keys going forward is being able to demonstrate and illustrate that the science and technology and productivity growth can help solve the problems you're worried about, too. And also trying to think about creative ways of dealing with the concerns you're worried about, whether it's consolidation or intellectual property ownership or some of those things, these sort of issues. Try to think through creative ways that they're not only increasing productivity but they're socially acceptable kind of, too. And I think that's sort of the future that I would like to see. Whether we can be there or not, is have an efficient production system that can still really help these food security issues 'cause we really will have population growth, we really will need to increase productivity to meet those, but we need to be able to have a society that enables us to use technologies that is accepting of them. And so we've got to think about those technologies creating benefits, demonstratable benefits for consumers that they probably haven't been able to see directly before.

And that will only become more important in the future, I think, if we continue to urbanize and if we continue, hopefully, to become wealthier. Those concerns are not gonna go away. People will be able to be more concerned about things like animal welfare and environment and health because we can afford to do those and so, I think, as AG scientists and as producers, we have to think about adopting new technologies and new systems that can address those concerns as well. And so, my answer is not that we turn our backs on technology, but we think about using these technologies to create the kind of outcomes that people are telling us they really want.

Brady: Do you have any sense of how you plan to engage with students and your faculty and kind of field in general in the future on these issues? How will Jayson Lusk, [inaudible] more, you know, continuing along this?

Jayson Lusk: I certainly hope so. As long as people are willing to listen and fund some of the research that we want to do, I'm happy to help play a role and, I think frankly one of my strong motivations here is that there's been a lot of discussion about food and agriculture. It's really been a ... These have become topics and become much more covered in the media than they were in the past. So, I mentioned yesterday that when I was coming out of grad school, in some ways, some people seemed to be a little embarrassed of calling themselves an agriculture economist. They were sort of second class economists in a way. But I certainly don't feel that way and it certainly isn't true anymore that in a lot of ways there's never been a better time to be an ag economist because people care about the things we're working on. They want the kind of expertise that we have. Media wants it. Government wants it. NGOs want it.

So, it's fantastic to be in a profession who has a set of knowledge and skills that is in high demand. And I really think that that's a part of my motivation, both being a head of a department, as somebody who also is wrapping up their term as the president of a main professional society of AG economists is, you know, I think our profession does great work that can really help inform these debates, that can really help us make better decisions in some of the things I see proposed. I may not always agree with some of my AG economist colleagues but I'm almost certainly, in most cases, to respect where they're coming from, understanding their logic, know they've thought carefully about these issues. And so, I think, personally one of my goals is just to make people more aware of the work that food and agricultural economists are doing, 'cause I think really both as consumers, producers, and policy-makers, we would make better decisions if people were more aware of the kinds of work that food and AG economists were doing.

Brady: All right. Thank you. Jayson Lusk on "The Future of Food". We'll put up several links to a couple of his books that he's written on the subject as well as to his blog. Thanks so much, Jayson.

Jayson Lusk: Thanks, Brady.

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Brady: Thanks for joining us at FARE Talk. We hope you will continue to check our website for updates and the latest podcast.

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Click the following link to listen to the audio recording of The Future of Food.

Podcasts sponsored by The Institute for the Advanced Study of Food and Agricultural Policy.