Food security has long been a challenge for farmers, but in the future it will be the focus of an ongoing life and death battle by farmers and agribusiness to produce enough food to feed our planet.

How big is the battle? By the year 2025, we will have 8.5 billion people on Planet Earth. By the year 2043, we will surpass nine billion. By 2025 India and China will each have a middle class that contains more people than the entire population of the U.S. or Western Europe. By 2043, China and India each will have a middle class bigger than the U.S. and Western Europe combined.

Projecting further into the future, by the year 2050 farmers will have to produce more food each year than all the food produced by farmers since 10,000 BC, when most experts contend farming began.

Farmland, on a global basis, is expected to increase slightly over the next 20 years, but that’s a highly misleading statistic. Among, the world’s most productive food producing countries, like the U.S. and Canada, farmland will decrease significantly. The bottom line is the world may increase acreage slightly, but we will likely see a significant drop in acreage in developed countries.

In the Southeast, farmland is going out of production at an alarming rate. Both North Carolina and Virginia are among the top five states in terms of farmland lost to other uses.

The average age of farmers worldwide is likely to decrease slightly between now and 2043, as more people in developing nations turn to agriculture to make a living. Again, in developed countries the average age of farmers is increasing, reaching 58 years of age in the U.S. this year.

Though the world’s population will only increase by 30 percent from 2010 to 2043 that doesn’t mean we will need 30 percent more food. Burgeoning middle classes will demand, and will be able to pay for higher quality protein in the form of meat products.

For every pound of high protein meat produced, it takes three pounds of crops, whether that be corn, soybeans, wheat or other grain or forage crops.

“The best guess right now is that we will need 80-100 percent more food by 2043 than we are growing now,” says Jim Stack, a professor at Kansas State University and director of the Great Plains Diagnostic Network.