Becoming More Agriculture-Conscious
Americans have the highest and most cost-effective standard of living of any country in the world. In fact, the majority of Americans own a home, possess a car or two, have the financial reserves to educate their kids, and still have time and money left over to enjoy the finer things in life.
Have you ever wondered how this is possible? The simple answer is that our lifestyle is the direct result of the efficiency and productivity of America’s agriculture industry.
What It Takes
Thanks to farmers and ranchers, we, as Americans, don’t have to spend the majority of our time or a large amount of our annual earnings on the food we eat. (You may feel this isn’t the case when you exit the checkout line at the grocery store, but remember that much of what you purchase there is not food.) The truth is the average U.S. household spends around 10 percent of its income on food. In comparison, households in other developed countries of the world spend from 15 to 45 percent of their income to feed themselves, while families in undeveloped countries devote all of their time and money to meet their meager food requirements.
Since most of us are at least three generations removed from life on the farm or ranch, we have forgotten what it takes to produce the food we eat. Instead, we have become accustomed to having abundant, affordable food options conveniently available at the grocery store. We give little thought to what it takes to deliver our food to the grocery store, although we demand, at a minimum, that it be fresh, safe and available year-round. Fortunately, American farmers and ranchers have accepted these challenges and continue to deliver the safest, freshest and most cost-effective food supply in the history of mankind.
They do this by keeping up with and applying the latest developments in science and technology to their production, processing and delivery functions. This is a practice farmers and ranchers must continue to pursue and apply to American food production in order to keep pace with global demand and maintain the precious standard of living to which we Americans have all grown so accustomed. For instance, utilizing hybridization in developing higher yielding crops and improving production and efficiency in animal agriculture has brought us to a point of heightened productivity. Laser leveling our fields, utilizing drip irrigation to conserve water supplies, and fertilizer application accuracies using drip tube technologies are just a few of the improvements farmers and ranchers rely on today.
New Technologies to Come
Going forward, it will be important for America’s agriculture industry to educate consumers and gain their understanding and acceptance of new technologies – technologies that can help develop disease- and insect-resistant crops for better yields and less reliance on crop protection materials. This also includes genetically-improved livestock breeds to reduce the need for antibiotic use in animal production and improve production rates. Gaining acceptance by consumers for the utilization of these technologies will allow those in agriculture to continue to improve production practices in a safe and efficient manner and address the concerns consumer groups have about the safety of their food.
The more removed the consuming public becomes from the supply side of our food production industry, the more difficult it becomes to properly inform them of the many positive changes and advancements being implemented in the agriculture industry. Because of this fact, American agriculture has taken a much more active role in educating and informing the public of its efforts and successes.
As a member of a multi-generational farming and ranching family, I encourage you to educate yourself. Don’t believe the first thing you hear or read or the many fear-based reports you are sure to see. Instead, check your facts, look into both sides of an issue, and make an informed decision about what you believe to be true about the food you eat.
I can tell you that your American farmers and ranchers are passionate about what they do. They choose to be farmers and ranchers. Being American food producers is important to them and they take pride in what they do every day. I can also tell you that they are committed to producing and delivering the freshest, safest food supply possible. So, the next time you see a farmer or rancher, consider saying, “Thank you!”
Joseph Duda is the retired CEO of A. Duda & Sons and the retired president and CEO of The Viera Company.