Celebrate National Ag Day: Thank a farmer

Chester Delaware County Farm Bureau touts cheapest, safest food in world 

IMG_1675In preparation for National Agricultural Day on Tuesday, March 25, the Chester Delaware County Farm Bureau has a message: Year in and year out farmers invest in producing crops and coping with whatever the weather brings, resulting in food that costs Americans less than any other country.

During the last few years, Americans have been spending slightly less than 10 percent of their incomes on food. Global statistics indicate that no other country in the world spends as little; European countries typically spend up to 15 percent of their incomes on food, and in China, the percentage is 30 percent, a bureau news release said.

Since 2006, food prices have been rising faster than in earlier years and food price inflation has exceeded many other goods, such as apparel and housing. The reason? Prolonged drought, floods and temperature extremes affect crops and livestock. For example, corn rose to $8 per bushel when supplies were short but is now down to around $4.40 after a very good crop in 2013. Drought in the Southwest has caused beef cattle numbers to be reduced by 10 million, increasing beef prices, the release said. Farmers have no control over the weather, but temperature and rainfall are critical to crop production, forcing them to adapt to every extreme.

One of the most common misconceptions about farming is that it is increasingly corporate; nothing could be further from the truth, the release said. Nationally only 2.7 percent of 2 million farms are non-family. The 2012 Ag Census found that 75 percent of farms received less than $50,000 year and are mostly run by part-time farmers, another reason to appreciate them.

The modern farmer has to be a master of many aspects of his or her farm business – marketing, equipment and buildings investment (a tractor can cost over $100,000 and a combine harvester up to $500,000), computers and software, of course, and knowledge of agronomy, livestock genetics, and nutrition, etc.

Today’s successful farmers are well-educated and well aware of the need to use best soil conservation and animal management practices. Cow comfort, for example, is critical to ensure good milk production. Many of the farms in Chester County have been in the same family for many generations. Sustainability has to be a basis for operating, the release said.

Gratitude is also due to the small producer who is growing produce, eggs, cattle, sheep, or goats to provide local farmers’ markets, farm stands and local restaurants. This region is particularly blessed with a wide variety of smaller farming enterprises that are successfully supplying a wide variety of fresh local food. Such local farming enterprises need to be supported and offer the opportunity to have direct contact with the producers and their farms, the release said.

Not only does the U.S. have the cheapest food in the world, but it also has the safest. So as National Ag Day approaches, take a moment to thank a farmer – and appreciate the role agriculture plays in providing safe, abundant, affordable food and products. Then enjoy some of their bounty.

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