The story painted a dire picture of world food needs and the United States’ obligation to fulfill them.
One year before, the article said, American producers sent 11.8 million tons of food to allied nations in need. The coming year, a 12.4 percent increase would be required.
This article appeared in a St. Joseph newspaper in 1919. With different numbers, different particulars, different partners, the piece could be written today.
World War I ended with Europe in ruins and with limited capacity to feed its citizens.
“Humanity demands that the starving millions freed from Prussian oppression shall have sufficient supplies to assure their return to health and prosperity,” the article said in The St. Joseph Union a few months after the armistice.
“If these liberated nations are faced with starvation, they can not establish orderly governments. ... The war to free the world for democracy will be lost after it has been won.”
The world population at the time of this story was about 1.8 billion people. Today, 100 years later, the world population stands at around 7.8 billion.
While diverse in the most extreme ways, all of these billions of people require sustenance. And the United States, smart when it comes to growing and raising things, will play an important role in making sure folks have something to eat.
Missouri Sen. Roy Blunt has been beating this drum for a while, a farm-state lawmaker selling the home-state brand but also recognizing “orderly governments” hastened by satisfied stomachs can help safeguard our nation.
“With world food demand expected to double in the next 30 to 40 years, we have an incredible opportunity ahead of us if we have the right policies in place to take advantage of it,” Blunt said earlier this fall in supporting an appropriation for farm programs.
Northwest Missouri, obviously, plays a role in this, a hotbed of agricultural production at the transportation crossroads (highway, river, rail) of the nation. St. Joseph, with its meatpacking past and surrounded by some of the country’s best acreage, facilitates much of this commerce.
Add to this the bedrock industries located here for the pharmaceutical care and well-being of animals.
Pardon me if I use this history, this location and this global food pressure as context in considering the proposed Agri-Business Expo Center.
If you think this project has been under discussion for a while, you’re right, at least eight or so years. But the notion has not withered on the vine. A mountain of money might have pushed the center to an earlier opening, but plenty of worthwhile enterprises have a long gestation.
A fundraising dinner in St. Joseph on Friday night pointed to a steady heartbeat for the project. The focus remained on a multi-use campus with exhibition space, meeting venues, classrooms and other areas meant to celebrate agriculture and champion its future.
On a site along U.S. Highway 36 east of Riverside Road, the center will see dirt turned in the coming year and a full complement of activities in the buildings by 2022, according to dinner speakers on Friday.
As a destination, it will draw people to St. Joseph as well as becoming a regional mecca for farm-related activities and agribusiness meetings. The hotels and restaurants will see an impact.
In a broader sense, though, the Ag Expo finds itself as essential to the times, a reflection of the importance of a time-honored and never-to-tarnish industry at a critical moment of its necessity.
The world needs feeding. In this region, people take pride in doing their part.