Twenty two million American workers produce, process, sell and trade the nation’s food and fiber. But only 4.6 million of those people live on the farms– slightly less than 2 percent of the total U.S. Population.
Consumers spend $547 billion for food originating on U.S. farms and ranches. Of each dollar spent on food, the farmer’s share is approximately 23 cents. The rest are for costs beyond the farm gate: wages and materials for production, processing, marketing, transportation and distribution.
On average, every hour, 24 hours a day, 365 days a year, around $6 million in U.S. agricultural products–grains, oilseeds, cotton, meats, vegetables, snack foods, etc., will be consigned for shipment for export to foreign markets.
It all means more jobs and higher wages across the nation. U.S. agricultural exports generate more than $100 billion annually in business activity throughout the U.S. economy and provide jobs for nearly 1 million workers.
Agricultural land provides habitat for 75 percent of the nation’s wildlife. Deer, moose, waterfowl and other species have shown significant population increases during the past several years.
Ethanol and new bio-diesel fuels made from corn and other grains are beneficial to the environment and promote energy security.
Today’s Farmers and Farm Families
Nearly two million people farm or ranch in the United States. Almost 90 percent of U.S. farms are operated by individuals or family corporations. And American agriculture provides jobs—including production agriculture, farm inputs, processing and marketing, along with retail and wholesale sales–for 15 percent of the U.S. population.
A recent survey of America’s young farmers and ranchers revealed that 97.2 percent planned to farm and ranch for life. And 90 percent said they would like their children to follow in their footsteps. This provides strong incentive for today’s farmers and ranchers to protect and preserve he natural resources on their property. Not only is the land and its resources a farmer’s lifeblood today, it represents the future for his family and its business.
America’s farmers and ranchers are true professionals. Most farmers are trained and certified in the use of agricultural chemicals. And farmers test and evaluate the soil before administering fertilizers. Farmers and ranchers don’t spend hard-earned money on costly fertilizers and nutrients unless they absolutely safe to do otherwise doesn’t make good business sense.
Nearly 30 percent of today’s farmers and ranchers have attended college, with over half of his group obtaining a degree. A growing number of today’s farmers and ranchers with four-year college degrees are pursuing post-graduate studies.
Today’s Modern Farm
Thanks to modern farming techniques, America’s farmers and ranchers are producing more food on fewer acres, leaving more open space for wildlife habitat. Modern farming practices free up millions of acres of wildlife habitat. Modern farming practices free up millions of acres for wildlife to live and thrive.
Precision farming practices boost crop yields and reduce waste by using satellite maps and computers to match seed, fertilizer and crop protection applications to local soil conditions.
A recent survey of young farmers and ranchers reveals that computers are used on 83 percent of America’s farms. Nearly 75 percent of today’s young farmers have a cellular telephone, and nearly one-third have access to the Internet, up from 10.5 percent from last year.
As farmers, the challenge is to provide consumers with the highest quality food possible. Growing and raising wholesome, safe food is the top goal. Farmers have done a good job; and they will continue to look for every opportunity to improve quality and safety.
Federal and state governments are responsible for safeguarding the food supply, but farmers are responsible for growing food safely. We make sure we use crop protectants effectively and safely, in amounts that are no more than what is necessary to combat pests and diseases.
Farmers work hard to gain the knowledge, training and skill to use chemicals safely and responsibly. Many farmers learned from their parents and have a lot of experience. But like other professionals, they also go to college, attend seminars and work with consultants. They are professionals in what they do.
Food-borne illnesses can occur anytime food is involved, So basic sound food practices should always be followed, whether the food is being prepared at a restaurant, at home or at a church picnic.
Proper food storage, processing and handling eliminates most, if not all, food- borne risks. Through cooking has proved an adequate safeguard. Food should always be properly refrigerated. Raw meat products should be segregated from cooked products. Perhaps most important, when in doubt, throw it out.
The basic products farmers produce are not usually the source of bacterial diseases. After the products leave the farm, however, meat, milk and other high- protein foods, on occasion, can be subject to contamination during processing, handling, storing and the actual preparation of the food.
New food safety standards have been put in place by the federal government to further ensure the food we eat is safe.
Integrated Pest Management (IPM)
American farmers fully support practices that enable them to reduce pesticide use. They’ve been using IPM tactics such as field scouting and even crop rotation for years. IPM is a management practice that uses cultural practices and natural pest enemies to reduce the use of crop protectants. They will continue to expand IPM use whenever possible.
As business people, farmers are interested in lowering costs associated with using crop protectants. IPM can help them do that. IPM, however, does not mean totally eliminating the use of crop protectants. Some are even used in conjunction with modern IPM techniques.
Farmers will continue to work with universities like NC State and researchers like those in the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences to develop new techniques that lessen the use and expense of crop protectants.