Thursday, November 18, 2010

2011 National Ag Day Essay/Video Contest

2011 National Ag Day Essay/Video contest announced visit for more information or visit for contest rules.

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Milk Mustache Mobile Tour Visits DC during National Agriculture Week

The National "got milk?®" Milk Mustache Mobile Tour made a stop in Washington, DC, during National Agriculture Week as part of its "Milk the Moment" Tour, which is crossing the country from March to September to help celebrate those special moments that families share around the dinner table and show moms that serving milk at dinnertime is an easy, and affordable, way to help make sure their families get the nutrition they need.

Traveling to 75 cities nationwide, the “Milk the Moment” Tour features a variety of fun and educational activities for the entire family. The tour also offers moms a chance to share how they “milk the moment” at dinnertime for a chance to win an unforgettable family dinner experience with Milk Mustache celebrity and chef Tyler Florence

“Milk the Moment” To Win The Milk Mustache Mobile “Milk the Moment” Tour has taken to America’s streets to encourage families to set the dinner table with naturally nutrient-rich milk. This year, the tour will help celebrate family dinners and invite moms to share how they make the most of time together around the table. Do your kids pour each family member a glass of milk? Or does your family do a milk toast to start off every meal? Event attendees can enter the national “Milk the Moment” contest by sharing how they “milk the moment” with their family for a chance to win a trip to San Francisco to have a family dinner with the latest Milk Mustache celebrity and chef Tyler Florence.

To enter, attend a Milk the Moment Tour event in your area or if you can’t make it to the event, visit to enter and for official rules.

Family Fun Activities
Also, as a partner of this year’s tour, the NFL and the National Dairy Council’s (NDC) Fuel Up to Play 60 program will offer kids the opportunity at each event to participate in a fun, dinner-themed football toss activity that teaches kids the importance of getting enough exercise and eating right. The youth-led program empowers children and teens to take charge of their health and work with school leaders to create more opportunities for 60 minutes of daily physical activity and to make more healthy foods available. Also, residents who stop by the mobile tour have a chance to win great prizes and experience free, interactive activities including: an interactive display that puts milk head-to-head with other dinnertime beverage choices, milk samples, and Milk Mustache photos.

Helping Those In Need Build Strong Families
You can also help families in need by passing a virtual gallon of milk to friends on Facebook. Event attendees can pass a gallon on-site at special computer stations, but you also can help by visiting For every virtual gallon passed, $1 will go to Feeding America, up to $100,000. Feeding America is the country’s largest network of food banks that serves more than 37 million people facing hunger in this country. For more information on the importance of serving milk at the dinner table and the National Milk Mustache "got milk?®" Campaign, visit, fan the tour on Facebook at or follow them on Twitter @MilkMustache.

Friday, March 19, 2010

Michigan Teenager Submits Winning AgDay Essay

Christine Vanek, a high school student from Ann Arbor, Mich., was chosen the 2010 winner of the annual AgDay Essay Contest. Vanek, who presented her winning essay at Thursday evening's AgDay dinner in Washington, DC, received a standing ovation at the conclusion of her presentation. As winner of the contest, she also was awarded a $1,000 check. The annual AgDay Essay Contest is sponsored by CHS Inc., Country Living Association, Agriculture Council of America,
High Plains Journal,National Association of Farm Broadcasters, McCormick Company, National Agri-Marketing Association (NAMA) and the Council for Agricultural Science and Technology (CAST). What follows is the text of Vacek's winning essay.

As we drive west with the setting sun through the last miles of Iowa, I stare out my window in awe. The fields stretch uninterrupted to the horizon, and the sky is a beautiful abundance of fading blue. I know that I am almost home.

Although my family lives in Ann Arbor, Michigan, our roots are anchored deep in the Nebraska soil. My appreciation for the importance of American agriculture comes from my experience out at my grandparents' farm. I remember as a small child riding in the tractor with my grandpa as he disked a field in preparation for planting, folding the old corn stalks from last year's crop into the dirt. I remember going along with him one fall in the combine, fascinated at the machine's ability to get the ears off the stalk and the corn off the ears, shooting the kernels into the storage space and spitting out the unusable remainder.

At the age of seven, my mind could not grasp the abundance that is American agriculture. I could not comprehend the space of even one field, which itself was granted my awe. At seventeen, I have come to admire the work that my grandfather and all American farmers do. It is thanks to the abundance of American agriculture - from the corn, soybean and wheat fields of the Great Plains to the expansive fruit orchards in the South - that I, along with the rest of the country, have access to a wide variety of affordable, safe, nutritious foods.

I am thankful as well for the affordability of agriculture in America. My ancestors came to America less than two hundred years ago to escape forced service in the Czechoslovakian army. They did not have a large amount of wealth, but due to the affordability of American agriculture, they were able to build a small house and begin their own modest farm. Living frugally and working the land with dedication, they built up a life and livelihood for themselves in America.

I am a product of American agriculture, and I can testify to its greatness. This spring, I was walking to the pivot in the field on my grandparents' farm, when I stopped to tie my shoe. As I stood back up, I looked at the scene around me, taking it in in a way I hadn't while I was walking. I have experienced no more perfect a moment in my life than standing there with the sun warming my back, looking out at that vast, intensely blue sky with the deep green corn plants stretching for miles beneath it.

Merrigan and Lincoln Address Thursday's AgDay Dinner

Deputy Secretary of Agriculture Kathleen Merrigan and U.S. Senator Blanche Lincoln (D-AR), Chairman of the U.S. Senate Committee on Agriculture, Nutrition and Forestry, addressed a sold-out crowd at last-night's AgDay dinner at the USDA's Whitten Hall.

Lincoln and Merrigan stressed the importance of ending child hunger and obesity. Merrigan noted that more than 18 percent of American children live today in food insecure households.

In response to this issue, Sen. Lincoln this week introduced the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act of 2010, a bipartisan, fiscally responsible bill making the largest investment in federal child nutrition programs to date.

Lincoln’s bill provides $4.5 billion in new child nutrition program funding over 10 years, which is a significant increase over previous efforts. The highest previous increase was $500 million over 10 years.

Both leaders mentioned the importance of increasing consumer understanding of production agriculture and the U. S. food system. Merrigan also cited the Agency's commitment to creating pathways for youth to repopulate and reinvigorate rural communities, as well as the Administration's commitment to growing domestic markets and creating additional demand for exports of agricultural products.

Lincoln reported the Senate has worked hard to quickly approve the Ag Disaster Bill, noting that disaster assistance must be provided in a timely manner. She also mentioned the Administration's focus on increasing exports -- noting several pending trade agreements including opening trade with Cuba.

Well-known agricultural broadcaster Orion Samuelson served as emcee for the evening's festivities.

Thursday, March 18, 2010

Straight From the Farmer--Technology is Key to Bright Agriculture Future

Less than two percent of America’s population is actively engaged in farming. Yet, the agriculture industry is the most productive in history. In fact, each U.S. farmer produces enough food to nourish more than 150 people.

Today’s farmers are engaged in agriculture because they want to be. And if you ask Brent Johnson, a 36-year-old farmer from Manson, Iowa, there’s no more exciting place to be today than on the farm.

A fourth generation farm family, Brent and LuAnn Johnson operate Labre Acres, which includes 900 acres of corn, soybeans and alfalfa, and a small cow-calf beef operation. They also operate Labre Crop Consulting, which works with farmers across Iowa to incorporate precision farming technology into their operations for more detailed record-keeping and production efficiencies.

“When my grandfather switched from horses to tractors in 1956, I would imagine he thought agriculture production could never get any better than that,” Brent says. “And today, I feel the same way. With satellite technology, auto-steering, biotechnology, and variable rate application capabilities, I can't even imagine what’s coming that will make things even better than they are today. “

In preparation for coming back to the farm, Brent earned a bachelor’s degree in agronomy from Iowa State University. After graduation, he spent nearly 10 years working in corn research and production in the seed and crop protection industries before moving back to the farm.

As an agronomist, Brent has a keen understanding of the importance of caring for the land, as well as the proper care and feeding of plants once they have been planted in the soil.

In fact, Brent believes that farmers were at the forefront of the green movement before “going green” was even considered cool.

“We live on the land. It is part of our lifestyle. Farmers have done more to protect and conserve the land by developing terraces and waterways than any other segment of the U.S. population. And people just don’t understand that,” Brent says. “We work hard to employ the best technology and management practices we can to ensure that we can be successful with proper placement and reduced applications of fertilizer and pesticides.”

Brent also says he is concerned that so few people have a realistic understanding of agriculture and farmers. “This is not a fairytale existence – agriculture is a business. I’m worried that we have people trying to decide the future of agriculture who do not understand or respect how far this industry has come since the 1950s. We cannot be as efficient without modern technology. Without it, the industry moves backwards. And that way of thinking won’t feed the world.”

Brent believes the way to increase the understanding between farmer and consumer is through education and communication. That’s why he and LuAnn are in Washington, DC, during National Agriculture Week visiting with members of Congress about agriculture’s promise and the hope modern technology can bring to the global food system.

Brent and LuAnn are participating in National Ag Day Festivities today on Capital Hill and at the USDA, as representatives of John Deere’s Outstanding Young Farmers of America group.

“We’re here on behalf of many young farm families around the country,” Brent says. “We are honored to represent these farmers and will do our best to make sure their voices are heard in the discussions about the promise modern agriculture holds in feeding the world.”

Youth Key to Keeping Rural America Vibrant

More than anywhere else in the country, rural America provides tremendous opportunities for youth to make a difference. That's what U.S. Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack told more than 150 students and agriculture professionals gathered at the USDA this morning to kick-off AgDay celebrations in the nation's capitol.

In his remarks, Secretary Vilsack noted that despite their extraordinary efforts through history and today, American farmers and ranchers receive little credit, like an Oscar or Olympic gold medal, for their efforts in producing the world's food supply. In noting these efforts, Vilsack noted that in 1950, the average farmer fed only 20 people. Today, each American farmer and rancher feeds more than 150 people, and they have assumed much greater responsibility for generating food for the world while often having to rely on off-farm income to survive economically on the farm.

To protect the viability of the 21st Century farm, Vilsack says the USDA must expand its focus to address more of the struggles faced in rural America. Some of the areas of focus include:

  • Continued expansion of agricultural exports and domestic use of agricultural products -- he noted that tremendous opportunities exist in the country's ability to convert agricultural products into energy, for example.
  • Increased connections and understanding between farmers, consumers and the food they eat. He noted the "Know Your Farmer, Know Your Food" program as one example of how the USDA was hoping to connect consumers to farmers, and bolster rural economies.
  • Promoting hunting and fishing on conservation acres in rural communities. Vilsack noted that when hunting and fishing enthusiasts visit rural areas, they provide an economic boost to rural communities.
  • Continued exploration of ecosystem markets to address the world's changing climate.

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Consider a Career in Agriculture - - The Choices are Amazing!

By Kent Schescke, FFA Foundation

While farming is possibly the oldest and most well-known agricultural career, more than 300 career opportunities exist in today’s agriculture, food and natural resources sector. Those jobs can be organized in the following categories:

Food Products and Processing Systems
Plant Systems
Natural Resource Systems
Animal Systems
Environmental Service Systems
Agribusiness Systems
Biotechnology Systems

More than 7,400 middle and high school agricultural education programs and FFA chapters exist in schools and communities across the United States to help young people explore, discover and prepare for agricultural career opportunities. What follows are some fast facts about agricultural education today:

Education of students in urban, suburban and rural areas
34% from urban and suburban areas
39% from rural, non-farm areas
27% from rural farm areas
16 of 20 largest U.S. cities have FFA chapters
Changing demographics of membership
39% female (hold 50% state leadership positions)
85% Caucasian, 11% Latino, 4% African-American

The agricultural education community is focused on growth and quality as the future of agricultural education. In fact, our goal is to accelerate GROWTH in education by providing greater access to Ag Ed and FFA by exponentially growing the number of programs in communities not yet served by Ag Ed and FFA, thus assisting students to prepare for opportunities in agriculture, food and natural resources industries.

By strengthening the QUALITY of personal, academic and career education programs in agriculture, we will raise the bar on student achievement in existing Ag Ed and FFA programs.

Accomplishing these goals will require lots of motivated new agricultural education instructors and teachers. Do you have a knack for working with young people? If so, we encourage you to consider Agricultural Education as a major and work toward a career an agricultural education instructor.

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.

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Agriculture is the Backbone of Our Country

"Trade increases the wealth and glory of a country; but its real strength and stamina are to be looked for among the cultivators of the land." - William Pitt

It is amazing to realize how agriculture impacts our lives. Food and fiber products play a major role in each part of our lives and without them we would perish. Our country would perish. This isn’t a new revelation – William Pitt had it figured out centuries ago.

Farmers and ranchers are independent business people who provide for their families and the rest of us by growing and producing food and fiber. Like almost any industry you can think of, farmers have used technology and innovation to increase the quality and quantity of the products they produce. Consider this -- in the 1960s, one farmer supplied enough food for about 26 people in the U.S. and abroad. Today, that same farmer supplies food for more than 144 people in the U.S. and abroad. Wow.

Research and advancements in biotechnology provide consumers around the world with tastier fruits and vegetables that stay fresh longer and are not damaged by insects. Innovations in plant breeding and biotechnology have also made is possible to enhance fruits and vegetables with additional nutritional value, which is very important in bolstering the diets of adults and children in third-world countries where nutritious foods are not plentiful.

When consumers expressed a need for meats lower in fat and cholesterol, America’s farmers and ranchers answered the call with retail cuts 15 percent more lean, giving consumers better value for their dollar. For example, pork tenderloin now has only one more fat gram than a skinless chicken breast. And much leaner beef cuts are now 27 percent less fat than in 1985.

Farm equipment has evolved dramatically from the team of horses used in the early 1900s. Today, farmers use satellite maps and computers, in addition to state-of-the art tractors and implements to match seed, fertilizer and crop protection applications to local soil conditions, which boost crop yields and vastly increases production efficiency. These practices also significantly lessen agriculture’s carbon footprint by allowing farmer to produce more on fewer acres using a precise amount of inputs based on specific conditions.

And despite the technological advancements, American consumers spend less on food – about 2% of their disposable income -- than any other developed country in the world.

The cultivators of our land are the backbone of this country. They deserve our appreciation and respect. And that’s why it’s important that we set aside one day each year to celebrate the work of America’s farmers and ranchers. Please join us in the celebration!

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Welcome to the brand new Ag Day blog.

We’re glad you visited and hope you come back often. You’ll find the latest updates about Ag Day 2010 and enjoy an entire spectrum of views about American agriculture.

This blog is a conversation. So please use the comments section to chime in and share your thoughts or suggest ideas for future posts. All we ask is that you keep it respectful and clean please.

If you like the conversations taking place here and want to help spread the word about Ag Day and our celebration of American agriculture, there’s a lot you can do:

  • Link to us from your own blog or website
  • Share this blog through Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn
  • Tell your friends and colleagues about us and encourage them to visit

American agriculture truly is Abundant. Affordable. AMAZING.

As important as agriculture is in our everyday lives and our culture, it’s also often misunderstood and taken for granted. We are lucky to live in a world where our farmers make it possible for us to not to think twice about having enough food, having fiber for clothes and having resources for common things like paper, furniture and cars that are just magically there.

Ag Day is a time for pausing and saying thanks for the bounty our farmers produce. Taking a minute to understand—and appreciate—where it all comes from.

So again, thank you. And please invite your friends, family and co-workers to join our celebration of American agriculture.

Until next time ...