Some experts say world food production must be doubled in the next 40 years because the world’s population could increase from the current 6 billion to 9 billion. Others say those numbers are inflated or too conservative.

“Maybe it’s an 85 percent increase (rather than 100 percent) or maybe 115 percent,” Lesher said. “Whatever it is it’s a very large number to meet. It will take all of us – farmers, input suppliers, governments, NGOs working together to make this happen. If we don’t, we face the prospect of 2 billion to 3 billion starving people.

“We need to do more with less and we must start implementing measures and policies that increase productivity today,” he said. “A ramp up of this order is achievable, as the public and private sectors, demonstrated during the green revolution.”

Lesher and Conklin were joined by Keith Fuglie, branch chief for Resource, Environmental and Science Policy in the Resource and Rural Economics Division of USDA ARS, who discussed the development of the study.

Total factor productivity

“Assessing total factor productivity – the amount of output per unit of total factors, or inputs, used for production – for the entire global agricultural sector provides a more comprehensive picture of changes in resource requirements to produce farm commodities,” said Fuglie. “A 1 percent increase in TFP, for example, means that 1 percent fewer agricultural resources are required to produce a given bundle of crop and livestock outputs.”

While economists have developed estimates of agricultural TFP for most industrialized nations, these measures have only recently become available for major developing countries, he said. ERS has combined country-specific studies together with additional analysis of productivity growth in other regions to construct a global measure of agricultural TFP growth since 1961.

This year’s three-day event is expected to draw 1,100 participants from 65 countries to downtown Des Moines.