Kansas agriculture secretary discusses future of industry

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The most recent installment in the Upson Lecture Series welcomed Dale Rodman, secretary of the Kansas Department of Agriculture, to the Grand Ballroom in the K-State Student Union.

Rodman took his position after retiring from Cargill Inc. after 37 years. He was appointed by Gov. Sam Brownback in January 2011 despite his lack of a political background.

“I wanted to come promote agriculture in Kansas,” Rodman said about why he took the position. “It is the largest industry in the state.”

Despite agriculture’s status as the largest industry in the state, Rodman thinks things need to change because the world is changing dramatically.

“In the next 50 years we must produce as much food as we have in the last 1,000 [years],” Rodman said. “250 new customers are born everyday.”

Rodman said more food must be produced because of the growing demand of the world. According to Rodman, the population will exceed 9 billion by 2050 despite a downtrend in birthrate.

The odds are in Kansas’ favor to become a leader in agriculture, Rodman said. Rodman listed a number of advantages, noting that Kansas has the second-largest amount of farmland in the U.S., good animal health, a conducive climate and a central location.

Rodman also, however, pointed out the disadvantages that could work against Kansas’ position as the forefront of agriculture. These disadvantages include labor shortages, 20 percent of the state population living in a county that is unsupportive of agriculture and lack of awareness.

“[We need to make Kansas] a fly-in zone, not fly-over,” Rodman said.

Alex Reese, sophomore in agricultural economics, said he agreed with Rodman’s strong feelings about the future of agriculture. 

“If we don’t change then we are losing an opportunity to use crops to help the world,” Reese said.

While not everyone in attendance agreed with what Rodman had to say, most took something new away from the lecture.

“I gained a different perspective from a specialized point of view,” said Joe Hong, senior in horticulture.

Before he opened the room up to questions, Rodman’s concluding words emphasized that we need to make Kansas the leader in agriculture.

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