National Ag Week this year was recognized and celebrated Mar. 15-21, with the theme, “Agriculture: Sustaining Future Generations.” The week provides an opportunity to recognize the contribution of agriculture to the nation’s food supply and economy. Ag Week, started in 1973, is sponsored by the Agriculture Council of America (ACA), an organization uniquely composed of leaders in the agriculture, food and fiber communities dedicated to increasing the public awareness of agriculture’s vital role in our society.
Events mark a nationwide effort to tell the true story of American agriculture and remind citizens that agriculture involves everyone. “Agriculture provides almost everything we eat, use and wear on a daily basis, and is increasingly contributing to fuel and other bio-products. Ag Day efforts help educate millions of consumers,” said the ACA.
The beef industry is also important to the overall U.S. agriculture picture; USDA estimates $1 in cattle sales generates $5 in additional business activity.
“Ag Day encourages every American to understand how food and fiber are produced, the role of agriculture in a strong economy and our role in providing safe, abundant and affordable food. With over 729,000 beef producers, an economic impact of over $44 billion, and over $7 billion in exports, America’s beef producers make a major contribution, not just to rural America, but the economy as a whole,” said Colin Woodall, Chairman of Ag Day and National Cattlemen’s Beef Association Vice President of Government Relations.
USDA farm facts
• U.S. cattle inventory in mid-2014 was 95 million with an economic impact of $44 billion in farm gate receipts, according to US- DA’s National Agricultural Statics Service. Beef cattle are raised in all 50 states.
• 15 States generate more than $1 billion in case receipts for cattle: Texas, Nebraska, Kansas, Iowa, Colorado, Oklahoma, California, South Dakota, Missouri, New Mexico, Minnesota, Idaho, Wisconsin, Montana and Wyoming.
• 12 States generate over $10 billion in agricultural case receipts. They are: California, Iowa, Nebraska, Texas, Minnesota, Illinois, Kansas, Wisconsin, Indiana, North Carolina, Ohio and South Dakota.
• More than 21 million American workers (15 percent of the total U.S. workforce) produce, process and sell the nation’s food and fiber.
• Today’s farmers produce 262 percent more food with 2 percent fewer inputs (labor, seeds, feed, fertilizer, etc.) compared with 1950.
• Each American farmer feeds more than 144 people, a dramatic increase from 25 people in the 1960s.
• Farm and ranch families comprise just 2 percent of the U.S. population, and about 97 percent of U.S. farms are family-owned.
In speaking about the efficiency of America’s agriculture producers, American Farm Bureau President Bob Stallman, said, “Today’s farmers and ranchers are continuously improving, growing more food using fewer resources than ever before. But they do much more than simply provide an abundance of food. Farmers also work hard to provide a variety of food choices that meet consumer demand in today’s dynamic marketplace.”
While improving efficiency, farmers and ranchers are also concerned with caring for the environment, Stallman continued.
“The shrinking environmental footprint of our efforts to produce food and fiber abound. The latest National Resources Inventory published by the Agriculture Department’s Natural Resources Conservation Service and updated information from Field to Market, the Alliance for Sustainable Agriculture, tell a compelling story: Farm and ranch productivity has steadily increased while at the same time environmental performance and water quality have improved,” he adds.
“In addition to their commitment to the land, many farmers and ranchers also raise livestock including beef and dairy cattle, sheep, goats, horses, hogs, poultry and even fish. And we take our obligation to provide appropriate care of farm animals seriously.”
Helping Americans understand the role of agriculture in providing a safe and abundant food supply at affordable prices is one of ACA’s goals. They also want more people to acknowledge and consider the many career opportunities in agriculture. Career choices include farm and ranch production, agribusiness and marketing, food science, banking, education and many more.
The Ag Day Council believes agriculture is too important a topic to be taught only to the small percentage of students considering careers in agriculture and pursuing vocational agricultural studies.
America’s farmers share a commitment to protecting the land and meeting the demands of a growing population. Farmers and ranchers are sustaining future generations by feeding, fueling and clothing the world. — Rae Price, WLJ Editor