In all corners of the world, economic sustainability for farmers has to come first, according to Jerry Steiner, an executive with Monsanto.

“Making sure it works for farmers has to be the first goal of sustainability,” said Steiner at a seminar during the American Farm Bureau Federation’s 91st annual meeting. Steiner is the executive vice-president for global corporate affairs and sustainability for Monsanto.

“Organic and small and local farming are all fine as choices, but society is not in a good place if it’s the only choice,” Steiner said. “Farmers throughout the world must have the tools to invest more and innovate.”

The importance of large-scale agriculture to feed a growing world population must be continually emphasized, according to Steiner. He noted that in these difficult times, with unemployment at 10 percent in the U.S., Americans are still spending less than 10 percent of their disposable incomes on food. That’s the lowest percentage in the world, which proves how effective U.S. farmers are in producing food.

“This fact really gets lost in the broader story,” Steiner said.