The future of agriculture

By Argen Duncan: PNT senior staff writer

Baby Boomers and younger people are demanding more luxuries than older generations.

And Baby Boomers wanting to spend their last days near plants and animals will become a source of income for agriculture, a New Mexico State University agriculture economist said Tuesday.

Lowell Catlett, futurist and dean of the NMSU College of Agricultural, Consumer and Environmental Sciences, spoke at the annual New Mexico Peanut Growers Association meeting at the Memorial Building.

In the past 15 years, Catlett said, two billion people around the world have risen from abject poverty to middle class. Never before in recorded history has this happened, he said.

When people are poor, they’ll eat anything, Catlett continued, recalling his mother’s saying that they ate “everything but the squeal” from butchered pigs. However, when they have more money, their diets change.

People also begin to want cars and dinners out, he said.

“Hello! It’s just what humans do,” Catlett said.

The World War II generation has the mindset of putting food on the table because they didn’t always have enough, Catlett said. However, his generation, the Baby Boomers, grew up with abundant food and so strives for love, acceptance and self-actualization.

That’s why they protested on campus and did drugs, Catlett said. Their standards of living are higher.

“Once you go up, you don’t want to ever go down,” Catlett said of standard of living.

There’s a new demand for organic food, green electricity and free-range chicken since people have become secure in their source of food, Catlett said. Mass-produced cheese exists side-by-side with a market for farmhouse-produced artisan cheese.

“That’s this world,” Catlett said, adding that it is differentiated.

In conclusion, Catlett said health care will impact agriculture because Baby Boomers are aging.

“But we’re not going to get old like the previous generation,” he said.

While his grandmother gave up her cats for a nursing home, Catlett said his generation will pay to be near plants and animals in their last days.

Therefore, Catlett said, nursing homes will be different. He has met an Australian farmer building one on his property.

“Health care will be the biggest income of agriculture before my generation passes away,” Catlett said. “Get ready, because I want to walk in your field, with my dog.”