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!