Cyndi’s Two Cents
Celebrating agriculture’s contributions
Spring has arrived. It will not be long until planting begins in earnest and the next crop season is off to the races.
It is this week in which the Spring Equinox falls that is officially designated as National Agriculture Week. National Ag Day fell on Tuesday of this week. The non-profit organization Agriculture Council of America (ACA), a group of leaders in the agriculture, food and fiber communities dedicated to increasing the public awareness of agriculture and its vital role in society, has as its primary focus, conducting the National Ag Day program.
National Agriculture Day and the entire week offer great opportunities for companies, organizations, and individuals to highlight the success and importance of agriculture at the local, state, and national levels. Although it is important to have a laser focus one day or one week of the year, we would do ourselves a favor by sharing this message throughout the year.
And about that message. . .
There are many cool facts about agriculture. For example, each American farmer feeds more than 166 people, which is a dramatic increase over the twenty-five people a farmer fed in the 1960’s. But why should anyone care? How does that increased productivity impact those not employed in agriculture? When you are talking to people about the importance of agriculture, give them a reason to care. Make the story as much about them as it is about you.
Agriculture is a huge economic driver in the Midwest. The sizeable income and property tax revenue generated by agriculture helps build and maintain schools and roads across the Corn Belt. Billions more dollars churn into the economy here from farm machinery manufacturing, processing and sale of value-added food products, and agricultural real estate.
According to USDA’s Economic Research Service (ERS), agriculture, food, and related industries contributed $1.055 trillion to the US gross domestic product (GDP) in 2020, a 5% share. The output of America’s farms contributed $134.7 billion of this sum, or about .6% of GDP.
As the global population grows and the demand for food and fiber produced here in the United States grows, the need to raise the bar on sustainability becomes increasingly important. Most farmers I know have been practicing sustainability for years. To be economically sound, you must find ways to be more efficient. Farmers will continue to be called to produce more using fewer inputs, fewer acres, and less water.
USDA tells us that agriculture is responsible for one of every twelve jobs in this country, yet fewer kids grow up on farms today. Without daily exposure to farm life and the ever-changing tools and technology used, it is easier to believe misinformation shared about the way America’s farmers treat the land, water, air, livestock, and people employed on their farms. Some misinformation is spread intentionally, while some can be attributed to a simple misunderstanding.
I do enjoy sharing cool facts about agriculture: Illinois produces enough corn annually to fill a train of box cars that stretches more than 7,600 miles; and Indiana leads the nation in duck production. However, I need to work a little harder on making the story of my life in agriculture a little less about me and a little more about the consumer with whom I am having the conversation.