Virginia Agriculture Week, March 13-19, spotlights urgent need for agriculture majors to help solve how to feed 9.5 billion people by 2050

March 11, 2016

Ettrick, Va. – Next week, March 13-19, the Commonwealth will celebrate Virginia Agriculture Week, with the entire nation celebrating National Agriculture Day on that Tuesday.

Though Virginia and the nation have a lot to celebrate and be proud of, not the least of which is a diverse abundance of safe, low-cost food, this is also an opportunity to focus on the monumental tasks that lie ahead.As stated by the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations, the world population is estimated to grow to more than 9.5 billion people by 2050. Scientists and economists across the world say that farmers must produce more food in the next 50 years than they have in the past 10,000 years combined.

As a result, the food and agriculture industry is growing…faster than there are skilled workers to fill the positions. According to a study done by the USDA’s National Institute of Food and Agriculture and Purdue University, employers have 57,900 job openings in agriculture and related fields each year. But just 35,400 students graduate annually with a bachelor’s degree or higher in agriculture. That adds up to a shortage of 22,500 agriculture graduates compared to the industry’s needs. That’s also why USA Today wrote last year that careers in agriculture and natural resources are among the “top 10 paying jobs in the country.” With starting salaries over $51,000 and with those who work their way up to management positions generally earning over a lifetime $800,000 more than the typical college graduate, a career in agriculture is likely to be lucrative.

“Today, those of us who see the writing on the wall give the unwavering advice to young people, urban and rural, to go into ‘food and agriculture,” said Dr. M. Ray McKinnie, Interim Dean of Virginia State University’s College of Agriculture.  “That’s where the future lies.”

Virginia State University is one of three colleges and universities in Virginia offering a four-year degree in agriculture, a degree which, says Dr. McKinnie, usually leads to careers with the U.S. or state government and in agribusiness; teaching; animal, plant, soil or environmental sciences; veterinary medicine; and traditional farming and ranching.

National Ag Day is organized by the Agriculture Council of America. ACA is a nonprofit organization composed of leaders in the agricultural, food and fiber community, dedicating its efforts to increasing the public's awareness of agriculture's role in modern society. The National Ag Day program encourages every American to: understand how food and fiber products are produced; appreciate the role agriculture plays in providing safe, abundant and affordable products; value the essential role of agriculture in maintaining a strong economy; and acknowledge and consider career opportunities in the agriculture, food and fiber industry.

To learn more about National Agriculture Day, visit