TUCKER, Ga. – Earth's population will need 100 percent more food in 50 years; and the US poultry industry must help meet the challenge of providing this food to a population that totals 7 billion and is rapidly growing, speakers told their audience during the Executive Conference on the Future of the American Poultry and Egg Industry. This program was held during the 2012 International Poultry Expo and International Feed Expo in Atlanta.

“We’re at a tipping point where we can really make some progress in this industry,” said Jeff Simmons, president of Elanco Animal Health. “This is an opportunity and a moral responsibility.”

As the farming and agriculture industries look for ways to become more efficient and play a greater part in feeding the planet, the playing field in which they will be working for the next several decades will be shaped by global population increases, rising demand for dairy and meat proteins, environmental concerns, economic constraints, and various public issues, Simmons said. Technology has the potential to address 70 percent to 75 percent of food-related issues and will enable progress in production and availability, choice and sustainability, he added.

Although bad economic news seems to be everywhere, the early indicators of a turnaround may have been overlooked or downplayed because of outdated ideas of what improvement should look like, said James Paulsen, chief investment strategist for Wells Capital Management, in his Economic Outlook presentation. “There are a lot of things to worry about, but don’t miss the recovery while you’re worrying,” he continued, adding that the recovery is “rolling out normally.”

The current recovery is not robust, Paulsen said. He predicted that the unemployment rate in 2012 would slowly but steadily decline, consumer confidence would rise, the housing market would improve somewhat and corporations would begin to spend the money they have been hoarding for the last several years and help to stimulate the economy.

“Adjusted for labor force growth, the current recovery is stronger than those of the 1970s,” Paulsen said. “We have to recognize that the recovery is working, but it’s a different character of growth.”

Meanwhile, Dr. Elisabeth Hagen, Under Secretary for Food Safety in the Food Safety and Inspection Service, addressed the US Department of Agriculture’s recently announced plan to modernize poultry inspections to focus on areas most relevant to food safety while pulling back on items that have little impact on detection and prevention of foodborne illnesses.

Hagen, who called this proposal the “biggest stride that we’ve taken forward in a very, very long time,” said it would strengthen protections for consumers as well as offer the poultry industry more flexibility, yield tremendous cost savings for the industry plus save taxpayers money. The changes are expected to save US taxpayers an estimated $90 million to $100 million in the first three years after they are enacted and lower poultry production costs by at least $250 million a year.