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Bjerga checks into global agriculture market

Tabi Jozwick

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The College of Business and Technology invited Alan Bjerga to speak at the Robert and Mary Ferguson Lecture series on Monday in Morgan Hall. Bjerga, a farm-policy journalist for Bloomberg News and radio host, talked about the changes in the global agriculture market through his presentation, “U.S. Leadership in Global Agriculture: To Be Continued?”

“(Bjerga’s) career as a journalist began in radio and then led into newspapers in Minnesota, South Dakota and Kansas before finally leading him to Bloomberg News in Washington, D.C.,” said William Polley, interim CBT Associate Dean.

“While at Bloomberg, (Bjerga) had the opportunity to travel the world reporting on food and agriculture issues.”

Bjerga said that his experience growing up on the farm helped him understand the agriculture policy issues that he covered for Bloomberg News.

“We are in (crucial) moments. These are particularly acute times in the spring of 2017 as we embark on the new White House administration, which is the signal of some pretty important changes, potentially a strong signal (of) shifts in both the U.S. domestic and foreign policy,” Bjerga said.

Bjerga said during his presentation that the global population is growing and that, according to the United Nations, it will reach 9 billion people by 2050.

“It’s been interesting in recent years to see a little bit (more) complexity to that statement than we may have seen in the past,” Bjerga said. “As you have seen, the commodity inventory continues to rise and commodity prices go down.”

Bjerga said that there would be a lot of challenges and changes in the global agriculture market.

“What the world eats may be changing,” Bjerga said. “While China has more than half the world’s pork, India, who is becoming a larger market in South Asia, eats very little meat, which could be a push for more production of beans and lentils and legumes and those sorts of things. Again, the world’s farmers are going to respond. How (they) are going to do that is a question.”

The global agriculture market even introduced more exotic produce to American consumers.

“That is one of the best things about global trade is to give people a diversity of food that you wouldn’t have before,” Bjerga said. “You’re not going to get a lot of locally grown passionfruit in Illinois, and yet you can go to Hy-Vee and you can find passionfruit. That helps you to have a better, more balanced diet in the U.S. and around the world.”

Food waste is a huge problem in the United States, and Bjerga said that one of the reasons for consumer food waste was due to people’s personal food preferences.

“They just don’t like it,” Bjerga said. “You don’t like the taste; you don’t like how it’s prepared. That’s the main thing is that people are finicky eaters, and that leads to another form of more waste.”

Bjerga said that the biggest issue related to agriculture is trading agricultural goods throughout the world.

“When you’re looking to feed the world, you need to know who’s going to be producing the food, how that food is going to be shipped and bought and how people are going to continue to ship that food in the future,” Bjerga said.

The Robert and Mary Ferguson Lecture Series was established to honor the memory of Robert Ferguson and his wife Mary. Ferguson received both his bachelor’s and master’s degrees at Western and served as a member of the business education faculty. During his time at Western, he served as the business education chair for 20 years, established the College of Business in 1966 and served as interim dean of the College of Business before the late Howard C. Nudd was appointed dean.

“As our college celebrates our 50th anniversary here, we continue our long tradition of bringing (the) campus outstanding guest lecturers whose knowledge and experience will help prepare our students for careers in the global economy,” Polley said.

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The independent student newspaper of Western Illinois University. Serving Macomb since 1905.
Bjerga checks into global agriculture market