The Daily Southerner, Tarboro, NC


December 12, 2012

Havlin speaks at Farm-City Breakfast

N.C. State professor concerned about land converted to non-farm use

TARBORO — As the world’s population continues to grow and cropland continues to be taken from production, the demand on farmers to increase crop yields will increase.

That’s the overview of the message delivered Tuesday morning by Dr. John Havlin, soil science professor and director of distance education at North Carolina State University. Havlin was the keynote speaker at the 35th annual Farm-City Week Breakfast, held at the East Carolina Agriculture and Education Center on Kingsboro Road. About 100 persons attended the breakfast.

Havlin said that over the past 20 years, about 1.2 million acres per year have been converted to non-farm use.

“About 800,000 acres per year goes urban,” he explained, adding that the biggest loss is to rural residential use. North Carolina is No. 4 in the nation for annual cropland lost to production.

Havlin cited a growing number of tracts of 10 acres or greater where persons have bought land for a personal enclave and, at the same time, taken it out of production.

Havlin encouraged community involvement to ensure the best use for the available land.

“I’m not against development, but do it wisely,” he advised. Havlin suggested getting a land-use specialist involved when a development is planned to keep from taking productive land from the growth cycle.

Havlin also presented the group with a series of slides showing how land-use has changed and how productivity has waned.

One chart showed available cropland on each of six of the seven continents and Central America as well as the degraded cropland. Worst of the seven was Central America, where 74 percent of the cropland has been degraded, followed by Africa at 65 percent, Asia at 61 percent and South America at 45 percent. Degradation has claimed 26 percent of the available cropland in North America.

Overall, 46 percent of the world’s available cropland has been degraded, he said. He also noted that more than 60 percent of world now depends on the United States for food.

He also talked about corn production and the fact it was the most consumed grain in the world.

“Many people think it is rice,” he said, “but it’s not. It’s corn.”

Havlin said about 25 percent of all U.S. farmland is planted in corn and that one-third of the 12 million bushels harvested is used in the production of ethanol.

“Did you know it takes one bushel of corn to produce 2.8 gallons of ethanol?” he asked. “That’s not very efficient.”

He said that under the existing energy usage plan from Washington, 35 billion gallons of ethanol are to be produced by 2017.

“There’s no way the math works. Corn is not the answer because the economics are not there for corn and ethanol.”

The “future is very bright,” he said, when discussing American agriculture.

“We’ve got to do everything we can. You’ve got to do everything you can … to make the land we farm more productive than it was when you got it. We face more demand and less cropland.”

Tuesday’s breakfast was sponsored the Edgecombe County Farm Bureau, AgCarolina Financial, BB&T, Carolina metal Building Components, Dug Henry Ford, Edgecombe-Martin County EMC, parkway Ag, PNC, Deloatch & Hinton, Providence Bank, Piggly Wiggly and J. Wines Cobb.

Co-sponsors for the event included the Edgecombe County Farm Bureau, North Carolina Cooperative Extension Service and the chamber of commerce.

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