It’s 2020. We’ve entered a new decade. It’s an exciting time and a fresh start. Remember the dawn of 2010? If you think not much has changed, I challenge you to think about the cell phone you owned on Jan. 1 that year. Yeah, the world has definitely progressed!
Personally, the last decade saw tremendous changes in my life. As the calendar turned to 2010, I was still in law school. I wasn’t writing about agriculture. And the idea hadn’t even crossed my mind yet.
Agriculture has gone through quite a bit since then as well. We’ve seen a big economic downturn. We’ve added new technologies in a meaningful way. And cutting-edge advancements from 2010 are now commonplace. Consumer preferences have also shifted drastically. We saw the rise of the non-GMO label and plant-based meats and milks.
So what does this new decade have in store for agriculture? I’ve gazed into my crystal ball and read the tea leaves. And I’m ready to give you my predictions for the 2020s.
1. The farm economy will turn around in a big way.
I promise this isn’t just wishful thinking. We’ve had bad economic conditions in agriculture for quite a few years now. The industry is changing in some good ways and a few bad ways. But eventually it will turn around, and we’ll see positive economic conditions. The economy is cyclical, so the chances are pretty high. But the big question is whether we’ve hit the bottom of this downturn. And I’m not sure that’s the case. It might get worse before it gets better.
2. The non-GMO label’s best days are over.
Too many food companies have plastered their products with those little monarch-butterfly logos in the 2010s. And companies unwilling to pay the big fees to The Non-GMO Project have come up with their own versions. But I think we’ve seen the heyday of these ridiculous labels. Why? Because the USDA’s GMO labels will soon be commonplace. And while I was initially opposed to them, I think it will eventually become no big deal. The USDA designed beautiful labels that positively reflect biotechnology. So the negative associations will be less effective over time, even if it doesn’t go away completely.
3. Organic sales will plateau.
I’m cheating a bit on this one: The growth rate of organic food sales slowed in 2018. So I suspect the trend will continue. It’s true the certification had a great decade. But sales are no longer expanding exponentially. And I sense that consumers are starting to catch on that organic marketing overblows its benefits. Why spend more money for something that doesn’t really give you any benefits? Organic will always be an option; I just don’t see it expanding at the same rate. Plus popular discord has moved away from organic and onto other trendy words, like regenerative agriculture. In the 2020s we’ll move beyond organic to the next big thing (hopefully that’ll be science!).
4. We’re going to see big changes in technology.
We’ve all seen the videos of little robots that can run around a field and pull weeds without human assistance. They aren’t necessarily ready for prime time yet, but there’s progress. And last year at the Fort Wayne Farm Show, there were plenty of agriculture start-up companies with new products and technologies. So it feels like we’re at a point where we’re going to see some big things coming to the farm. I’m willing to bet that by 2030, agriculture technology is going to look much different than it does today.
5. Biotechnology will offer solutions to persistent problems.
Orange groves decimated by citrus greening. Coffee threatened by climate change. Bananas hit with Fusarium wilt. The 2010s saw a lot of these serious challenges to popular crops. But we didn’t make much progress in stopping it. The 2020s will be different. And biotechnology will make the difference. We’ll see crops that are resistant to major diseases and hardy enough to combat the effects of climate change. Biotechnology will be heralded as a hero, not a villain.
So those are my big predictions. What do you think? And what do you see happening over the next 10 years?
Amanda Zaluckyj blogs under the name The Farmer’s Daughter USA. Her goal is to promote farmers and tackle the misinformation swirling around the U.S. food industry.