National Ag Day
It’s been a long winter and for many of us, that’s meant snow and ice, and days that are too short and too dark.
But this week, we not only turned the clocks ahead for Daylight Savings Time, but we also celebrate the first day of spring this coming Saturday, March 20. And in the agricultural industry, the first day of spring is AgDay, a national event created by the Agriculture Council of America (ACA) as part of National Agriculture Week. First introduced in 1973, Ag Day and National Agriculture Week were created to focus on the vitally important role that farming and agriculture play to our lives, including our health, our environment and our economy.
*More than 22 million people in the U.S. are employed in farm or farm-related jobs, including production agriculture, farm inputs, processing and marketing and wholesale and retail sales.
*Forty-one percent of total U.S. land — 938.28 million acres — is farmland, and the average farm covers 441 acres, compared with 147 acres in 1900.
*U.S. farmers produce 46 percent of the world’s soybeans, 41 percent of the world’s corn, 20.5 percent of the world’s cotton and 13 percent of the world’s wheat.
Those are some impressive numbers!
But equally as impressive are the many ways that today’s farming techniques are keeping pace with our country’s changing needs and tastes, resulting in healthier crops and meat products and increased efficiencies and cost effectiveness. According to the ACA, the new technique known as “precision farming” boosts crop yields and reduces waste by using satellite maps and computers to match seed, fertilizer and crop protection applications to local soil conditions. At the same time, biotechnology advances are yielding tastier fruits and vegetables that stay fresher longer and are less vulnerable to damage by insects.
That’s great news for all of us as we work to maintain more nutritious diets. Today’s population, for example, eats a whopping 900 percent more broccoli than we did just 20 years ago! We also consume about 30 pounds of lettuce per person per year — five times more than our ancestors ate in the 1900s. And blueberries — another of the plant family’s nutritional powerhouses — have also gained tremendously in popularity, with over 200 million pounds grown in North America each year.
In addition to keeping us healthy, today’s farmers are safeguarding the health of our environment . Reduced tillage practices on more than 72 million acres help prevent erosion, and maintenance of more than 1.3 million acres of grass waterways allows water to flow naturally from crops without eroding soil. And, just as the households of America now routinely recycle glass, newspaper and aluminum, the farms of America continue their age-old recycling practice of applying manure to fields replace nutrients in the soil.
There’s no question that the farming industry has made the most of new technologies — expanding, adapting, and ultimately, improving the agricultural products that reach America’s homes. Today’s farmers work nearly three-and-one-half times more land than their predecessors from 1900, and each American farmer produces enough to feed 144 people — a dramatic increase from 25 people in the 1960s!
“There is an on-going consolidation in agriculture that results in fewer farmers farming more acres,” says Doug DeVries, Sr. Vice President Agricultural Marketing for North America, Australia and Asia at John Deere in Moline, Ill. “Their needs for equipment are changing. Their expectations for what the equipment will do for their farming operation are also changing.” The field of agriculture as a whole just continues to evolve.
So, on National Agriculture Day: this Saturday, March 20th, as well as the next time you help yourself to a serving of broccoli or toss a handful of blueberries on top of your cereal, consider where they came from — each farmer in America today is responsible for feeding you — and 143 others like you!