Home / Successful Farming / Q&A: Howard G. Buffett, ag advocate

Q&A: Howard G. Buffett, ag advocate

CHERYL TEVIS 10/22/2013 @ 9:09am Cheryl has been an editor at Successful Farming since 1979.

Howard G. Buffett found his way into farming through an unlikely route. As a 5-year-old boy, he loved playing in the dirt, and he planted his first stand of corn in his backyard in Omaha, Nebraska.

Farming wasn’t the natural trajectory for the oldest son of billionaire Warren Buffett. Today, the 58-year-old Buffett works 1,500 acres of corn, soybeans, and wheat in Illinois, and he oversees research farms in the U.S. and Africa.

In 1999, he launched the Howard G. Buffett Foundation to improve global living standards and to relieve hunger. He applies no-till and other conservation farming practices, and he uses his bully pulpit to urge U.S. farmers to achieve the dual goals of productivity and sustainability.

Successful Farming magazine recently had the opportunity to ask Buffett to expand upon these topics. Here’s what he had to say.

SF: What can be done to reverse the growing trend of U.S. food insecurity?

HB: The biggest challenge to food security in the U.S. is one of access, even more so than affordability. We need to make an effort to address what many people refer to as food deserts in America and make sure that SNAP [Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program] benefits are more flexible and can be used in venues such as local farmers markets.

SF: You’re a big fan of ag technology. Why?

HB: Technology has provided and will provide more efficient production processes, and it can reduce farming’s footprint if properly applied.

SF: What can be done to reduce food waste in the U.S. and to help food-insecure Americans?

HB: I believe food waste and food insecurity are basically unrelated issues. The biggest single thing we can do to reduce food waste is to reduce portion size – everything has been supersized. Helping food-insecure Americans requires increasing the efficiency and broadening the reach of access.

It is true there is also some opportunity to redistribute food that is about to expire and would otherwise be wasted. This requires a very timely distribution so that food remains safe.

The long-term solution to food insecurity is something that our foundation cannot really affect. It is creating more and better economic opportunities for food-insecure Americans.

SF: You’ve spoken about the culture based on yield. Do you see a tipping point when U.S. water and soil resources will become a greater priority?

HB: Yes, because we won’t have a choice. It isn’t that I don’t believe yield is important – it is. It’s just a mistake to focus on only one element of production, because obtaining higher yields and conserving resources are not mutually exclusive.

This is another reason why technology is important. It can play a major role in combining the goals of increasing yields, reducing water consumption, and preserving our soil.

I have more confidence we will continue to develop technology that improves production and less confidence in our ability to change people’s mind-sets around conservation.

CancelPost Comment

Stitching Their Way to Success By: 02/20/2015 @ 10:39am Jenny Doan didn't grow up in a family tradition of hand-piecing quilts. Yet, she and her…

Prairie Revival By: 02/20/2015 @ 10:34am This morning's fleeting glimpse of a pair of shimmering sun dogs standing sentinel over an…

New Aids for Aging Ears By: 02/20/2015 @ 10:15am Almost one in five persons older than 45 years has hearing loss. By ages 65 to 74, one third of the…

This container should display a .swf file. If not, you may need to upgrade your Flash player.
Llamas, Commodity Classic and Photo of the Week