Western Farm Press.  24 October 2013.  Russ Tronstad, University of Arizona (UA) agricultural economist and Extension specialist, has an electronic filing cabinet full of PowerPoint slides with a slew of agricultural data gleaned from his own research findings, plus statistics from U.S. government agencies and others.

For the most part, Tronstad says the data point to a mostly bullish forecast – demand and price wise – for western-grown commodities, including tree nuts, fruits, and vegetables to name a few. Yet the UA Extension specialist expects a possible softening in alfalfa prices in the near term, and a mixed future for western irrigated cotton tied to crop insurance and global competition.

The overall positive outlook for Western agriculture is largely tied to growing worldwide incomes and population which currently stands at about 7.3 billion people.

Speaking to growers at a UA workshop held in Marana, Ariz. in October, Tronstad said the United Nations’ (UN) mid-range population estimate is for 9 billion people by 2050. The UN’s low range estimate calls for no major population increase by the mid-century mark. The government agency’s high end estimate is a whopping 11-billion people.

Producing more food to feed more bellies is not the only important factor signaling an increased demand for commodities. Tronstad says personal income must also grow worldwide, not only grow in larger countries with burgeoning populations like China, but also in less-developed regions of the world including the Sub-Saharan region in Africa.

Higher personal income allows people to afford a healthier diet, including more protein-enriched foods, including meats, nuts, plus more fruits and vegetables.

“After adjusting for inflation, many commodity prices should be higher over the next decade,” Tronstad said. “Specialty crop growers can benefit from more diversity in the diet.”

Tronstad explained, “Increased nut consumption in China has put legs under nut crops grown in California and Arizona.”

Tronstad’s work emphasis in risk management, international trade, and agricultural marketing is based mostly on livestock, fruits and vegetables, and field crops.