Thursday, February 25, 2010

It's Important to Know About Agriculture

Here are just some of the key reasons why it's important to recognize - and celebrate - Ag Day each year:

  • Everyone has to eat! Increased knowledge of agriculture and nutrition allows individuals to make informed personal choices about diet and health.
  • Informed citizens make informed policies. Informed policy-making will support a competitive agricultural industry in this country and abroad.
  • A strong ag economy generates jobs! Employment opportunities exist across the board in agriculture. Career choices include:
    - farm production
    - agribusiness management and marketing
    - agricultural research and engineering
    - food science and technology
    - food processing and retailing
    - banking and finance
    - education
    - landscape architecture and forestry
    - biofuels and biotechnology
  • Because agriculture touches each person on the planet, a general understanding for its practices is necessary and beneficial for everyone to know -- not just for the people who produce the world's food supply. We like to call this understanding agricultural literacy, which includes knowledge of agriculture’s history as well as how current economic, social and environmental issues affect all Americans.

Thursday, February 11, 2010

How Do We Weather This Perfect Storm?

As Haiti continues to struggle with its recovery from a recent devastating earthquake, the country now faces the real danger of missing its major spring agricultural growing season if farmers are unable to secure the necessary seeds, fertilizers, equipment and resources needed for planting. In addition, the United Nations reports that Haitian farmers also are in dire need of livestock feed and animal vaccines.

While Haiti relies on international aid for about 50 percent of its food supply, its agricultural industry is considered vital to the health and welfare of its people. If farmers miss the crucial spring planting season, the country will become completely dependent on international food aid to feed its devastated county.

According to a recent report by the Council for Agricultural Science and Technology (CAST)* approximately one billion people in poor countries today don’t receive enough dietary energy, and another one billion don’t get enough protein, fat, important minerals and vitamins. Growing global food insecurity is just one of many factors that that folks at CAST believe are converging to create a “perfect storm” in global food and agriculture.

It is imperative that we look to the best and brightest minds in agriculture to put science and technology to work in fueling the development of new innovations and solutions to global food insecurity while protecting and conserving our world’s rich natural resources. As citizens, it’s our job to fund and support research and development to feed disadvantaged populations. Their productivity, livelihoods, and, most importantly, their lives, depend on it.

*Full disclosure: John Bonner, executive director and CEO of CAST, is a board member of Agriculture Council of America.

Monday, February 8, 2010

Opportunities Abound for Agriculture

Contributed by Barry Nelson, Manager, Media Relations, John Deere

I just celebrated my 30th year with John Deere and it has been a challenging and rewarding career with a great company. I started in 1980, just before difficult times hit agriculture and I spent my first few years in the field assisting dealers and farmer customers. We came out of the '80s stronger than ever and U.S. agriculture continues to thrive even during the current recession. I firmly believe the farming culture and values of hard work, integrity and personal responsibility are major reasons for success in agriculture, even in this uncertain economy. Farmers are planting, growing, harvesting, and producing food for the world. There is no doubt they are critically important to America’s economic strength and resilience.

I also am extremely positive about the future of agriculture and know that we have many challenges in providing the essential food, fiber, and fuel to a growing world population. Currently, the global population surpasses 6 billion. By 2050, the population is expected to grow to 9 billion people! Our challenge will be to feed this growing population while becoming more efficient with land, water, inputs and all the resources necessary to produce food. We have the resources, the technology, and the know-how to get this done -- better than anyone else in the world!

In addition, there are larger global issues of food sustainability, hunger, and human suffering that impact us all. We, in agriculture, must not only produce high-quality food, but we must also assist third-world countries in developing their sustainable agricultural systems. The recent devastation in Haiti and the recurring drought, instability and hunger issues in Africa are perfect examples of this. Here are a couple of quotes from leaders in our industry.

DuPont's Chair and CEO Ellen Kullman states, "Agriculture is a game-changer that can mitigate multiple global issues - hunger, poverty, environmental degradation, poor nutrition and subsequent effects such as civil unrest."

And, David Everitt, President, Deere & Company , says, "Ignoring this looming (food) productivity challenge or not acting quickly enough has perilous risks that should not be underestimated. At its most basic, it means additional human suffering through hunger and malnutrition. Beyond that, it means widespread social turmoil and unrest that undermine the political stability of large parts of the world – not to mention eroding our own national security."

Now this is quite a challenge and, quite frankly, an urgent call to action for all of us. As a member of the National Agri-Marketing Association (NAMA) and a board member for the Agricultural Council of America (ACA), I have had the tremendous opportunity to meet some of the best communicators and marketers in the agricultural business. As an industry, we should leverage this talent and work together to deliver a clear, focused message about the importance of agriculture. This is even more critical today when there are more challenges from government, rising input costs, limited resources, and volatile commodity prices.

The ACA will host the annual Ag Day event in Washington D.C. on March 18th and will meet to celebrate and promote the importance of agriculture to leaders and influencers in D.C. We believe the public has the opportunity:

Appreciate the role agriculture plays in providing safe, abundant and affordable products

Understand how food and fiber products are produced

Value the essential role of agriculture in maintaining a strong economy

Acknowledge and consider career opportunities in the agriculture, food and fiber industry

Please join us in Washington D.C. to promote this important message or participate locally by having an Ag Day event. There are many promotional ideas and media tools on the Ag Day Web site. Let's circle the wagons and put our expertise together in promoting the importance of agriculture. Our future and our children's future depend on keeping this industry strong and vibrant!

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Some Background on National Ag Day

Each year, since 1973, National Ag Day is celebrated on the first day of Spring with the purpose of providing special recognition of the food and fiber industry’s contributions to America. This special tribute builds unity in the food and agricultural communities. It also educates the non-farm public about the industry.

The National Agri-Marketing Association (NAMA) and the American National CattleWomen (ANCW) were responsible for planning the first National Agriculture Day in 1973.

Since 1979, The Agriculture Council of America (ACA) has coordinated the National Agriculture Day celebration in Washington, D.C. With the help of countless individuals, companies and organizations throughout the country, ACA provides the resources and information for local events that coincide with the Washington festivities annually.

And America's farm families are amazing. And because so many people today have no connection to agriculture, they don't have the opportunity to realize just how amazing the depth and breadth of our food supply really is.

For instance, many believe family farmers no longer dominate farming.

According to the American Farm Bureau Federation (AFBF), 98 percent of American farms are still family-owned, family partnerships or family-owned corporations.

Interested in testing your Agriculture IQ?

Take the AFBF's short quiz to see how your knowledge of agriculture stacks up.