We take food for granted. Because in this country we also take for granted that we generally don’t worry about where our next meal is coming from, we take for granted those who produced and provided that food in the first place. Agriculture is our most essential industry, and this week I ask you to join me in celebrating National Agriculture Week.
Set aside as a week to recognize and celebrate the contribution of agriculture in our everyday lives, the National Ag Day program encourages every American to:
- Understand how food and fiber products are produced.
- Value the essential role of farmers in maintaining a strong economy.
- Appreciate the role farmers play in providing safe, abundant and affordable food.
Most of us take these values for granted simply because we’ve never had to worry about them. For children of the Depression era, food was much more top of mind because they were perhaps the last American generation to truly deal with issues related to food security. Since that era, however, agricultural productivity skyrocketed, meaning the average family of four spends a fraction of their disposable income on procuring their daily bread.
Each American farmer feeds more than 144 people, a dramatic increase from 25 people in the 1960s. Quite simply, American agriculture is doing more, and doing it better. As the world population soars, there is an even greater demand for the food and fiber produced in the United States. For example:
- In 1996, each American consumed an average of 77 pounds more of commercially grown vegetables than in 1970, 63 pounds more grain products, 54 pounds more fruits, 32 pounds more poultry, 10 gallons more milk lower in fat than whole milk, 20.5 pounds less red meat, 73 fewer eggs, and 17 gallons less whole milk.
- It takes just 40 days for most Americans to earn enough money to pay for their food supply for the entire year. In comparison with the 129 days it takes the average American to earn enough money to pay federal, state and local taxes for the year.
- More than 96 billion pounds of edible “surplus” food is thrown away in the U.S. Each year. It is estimated that almost 27 percent of our food supply is wasted.
With sustained attacks on modern production agriculture from environmental and animal rights extremists, as well as continual criticism from what one author called the “primitive food movement,” it is more important than ever that Americans be informed and engaged by farmers and food producers. Academic comparisons between oil and food are compelling: in WWII, the United States enjoyed a strategic advantage because we were relatively energy self-sufficient. That situation has clearly and dramatically changed in the last 50 years, with environmental and regulatory extremists forcing much of our oil production overseas, while stifling growth of nuclear energy.
Similarly, these same types of extremists would likely drive much of our food production from the homeland as well, leaving other countries to produce and supply our sustenance. For those of us who worry about America’s dependence on foreign oil as a matter of National Security, the implications of off-shoring food production are almost unfathomable.
Join me this week and every week in standing alongside American farmers, the most effective, efficient, productive, and sustainable food producers in the history of man. If you had a good meal this week, thank a farmer. And remember, we all have to eat, so we all need America’s farmers and food producers.