By DEBORAH BEHRENDS
CRYSTAL LAKE, Ill. — “We eat pretty much as much as we want and we eat what we want … We’re pretty fortunate people, and I want to demonstrate why I believe we’re the luckiest generation,” Al Ambrose told participants in the 25th annual Ag Leaders Outlook Conference last month.
Ambrose is vice president of risk management for Oilseed Processing, a division of CHS, Inc., a Fortune 500 company that supplies food, grain and energy products. He is responsible for oilseed processing, and related procurement and trading activities.
He opened his talk with a history lesson in economics, staring with Fabian socialism in 1945. Fabian socialist Clement Atlee was elected prime minister of the United Kingdom. He nationalized the banks, coal, steel, roads, rails, aviation, electricity, telegraph, national health service and the welfare system.
“What followed was 35 years of economic sclerosis and stagnation,” Ambrose said.
A new era of leadership under Margaret Thatcher, from 1979-90, cut taxes, privatized state-run industries and deregulated others. On this side of the pond, Ambrose said former President Ronald Reagan cut taxes and promoted trade reforms during his two terms from 1981-89.
“A remarkable transformation of global economy took place, led by the U.S. and the U.K.,” he said.
Other milestones he mentioned include Deng Xiaoping de-collectivizing state-run farms and promoting individual property rights through long-term land leases in 1983-84; the fall of the Berlin Wall and a global shift from guns to butter in 1989; and the signing of the North American Free Trade Agreement, or NAFTA, in 1994.
“Widespread sustainable prosperity erupts. Give a man a job, you not only feed him, you feed his extended family. The first thing people do with more money is buy better food,” Ambrose said.
“As the very poor advance economically, they move from grains to vegetable oils to meat. Per capita vegetable oil consumption in the poorest countries is used as a measure of changing living standards – very poor people do not purchase meat.
“In many developing countries, massive job creation and rapidly advancing incomes spur improved dietary intake. The result? Unprecedented expansion in vegetable oil and meat consumption,” he added.
He said not just a small segment of the world is eating better – billions are eating meat. “The demand is there, and it’s not going away. It’s not about population; it’s about people with more money,” Ambrose said.
“Count your blessings. You are living in the best place in the best time.”