I laughed when I saw the bumper sticker that said “Don’t cuss the farmer when your mouth is full.” And that is a good point to be made this National Agriculture Week. As more and more American citizens are growing up away from rural environments (by that I mean agriculture environments where production agriculture exists, not suburbs where people raise a garden and a few chickens), it becomes more important for those of us in production agriculture to tell our consumers where and how their food is produced. All the media seems to want to cover is the horror stories of animal abuse, pollution, and/or food recalls.
In agriculture these days, it does seem that “one bad apple can spoil the whole bag.”
Those sensational stories are causing consumers to distrust all of agriculture.
More than 3 million people farm or ranch in the United States. We hear criticism of corporate farming as if those are megafarms owned by investors located all over the world. In reality, individuals, family partnerships or family corporations operate almost 99 percent of all farms in the United States.
These farms are owned and operated by individuals who realize they can be profitable only if they care DAILY for their animals and land. Basically, farmers and ranchers are proud of the healthy, abundant, reasonably-priced food they produce.
But agriculture is not only the producers. Another 19 million people are employed in farm-related jobs, including supplying farm inputs, transportation, processing and marketing and wholesale and retail sales. Agriculture is responsible for keeping Americans employed, as well as well-fed.
The top five agricultural commodities are cattle and calves, dairy products, broilers, corn and soybeans. United States farmers produce 46% of the world’s soybeans, 41% of the world’s corn, 20.5% of the world’s cotton and 13% of the world’s wheat.
Forty-one percent of the total U.S. land area is farmland and the American Farmer is using this natural resource to feed a hungry world. One farmer supplies enough food for 144 people in our country and abroad.
But food producers are not just focused on their own profit. Farmers and ranchers are producing meat lower in fat and cholesterol. Modern technology has produced tastier fruits and vegetables that stay fresh longer and are not damaged by insects.
Farming techniques are more environmentally-friendly with precision farming allowing farmers to match seed, fertilizer and crop protection applications to local soil conditions.
Today’s farmers are focused on meeting the needs of their consumers and the environment. Please don’t complain about farmers when your belly is full.
By Pam Potthoff, President, Nebraska Women Involved in Farm Economics, Trenton