March 14, 2008
March 14, 2008 - From a team of horses in the early 1900s to tractors with the power of 40 to 300 horses today, American farmers provide consumers with more and better quality food than ever before. In fact, one farmer now supplies food for about 144 people compared with just 25.8 people in 1960.
The efficiency of American farmers pays off in the price American consumers pay for food as well. U.S. consumers spend roughly 9 percent of their income on food compared with 11 percent in the United Kingdom, 17 percent in Japan, 27 percent in South Africa and 53 percent in India. This great value is due in large part to improved equipment efficiency, enhanced crop and livestock genetics through biotechnology and conventional breeding and advances in information management.
All Americans are asked to enjoy and admire the wonders of American agriculture as National Agriculture Day is celebrated on the first day of spring, March 20. National Ag Week runs from March 16-22.
Below are some interesting facts about agriculture today. These points just scratch the surface of the advancements being made in agriculture on a daily basis. General statistics:
- Today's average farm is 441 acres compared to 147 acres in 1900.
- 41 percent of U.S. total land area is farmland.
- U.S. farmers account for 46 percent of the world's soybean production, 41 percent of the world's corn production, 20.5 percent of the world's cotton production and 13 percent of the world's wheat production.
- Almost 99 percent of U.S. farms are operated by individuals or family corporations.
- Nearly 22 million people are employed in farm or farm-related jobs.
- Farmers and ranchers provide food and habitat for 75 percent of the nation's wildlife.
- Farmers and ranchers are producing meat lower in fat and cholesterol. This has resulted in retail cuts that are 15 percent leaner, giving consumers better value for their dollar.
- Biotechnology has resulted in better tasting fruits and vegetables that stay fresh longer and are naturally resistant to insects.
- Plant breeding has resulted in crops better able to handle the environmental affects of drought and disease and insect infestations resulting in higher yields at harvest and lower costs to the consumer.
- As the amount of mechanization and horsepower in farm machinery has increased, the time needed to complete tasks has decreased. Combines, huge machines used to harvest grains such as corn, soybeans and wheat have dramatically changed agriculture. In the 1930s, before the machines were available, a farmer could harvest an average of 100 bushels of corn by hand in a nine-hour day. Today's combines can harvest 900 bushels of corn per hour-or 100 bushels of corn in under seven minutes!
- A growing number of farmers and ranchers are using computers and modern technology; 90.7 percent use a computer, 87.4 percent own a cellular telephone, 51.3 percent communicate by fax, 72.2 percent have access to the Internet and 24.5 precent make online purchases using e-commerce.
Today's farmers understand the importance of improving the quality and quantity of food available to the world. According to the U.S. Census Bureau, it is estimated that there will be 7.5 billion people in the world by the year 2020 (we're currently at 6.2 billion). It's agriculture's job to find a way to feed those people. American farmers and others involved in the agriculture industry have met and will continue to meet this challenge again and again.
Additional details about National Ag Week can be found on the Agriculture Council of America's Web site at www.agday.org