Today marks the 45th annual celebration of National Agriculture Day, which, as a White House proclamation states, acknowledges “the tremendous work ethic, ingenuity, determination and perseverance that define generations of American farmers. Because of their efforts, the United States produces an abundant supply of food, feed and fuel for a growing global population.”
It is a day during which producers, agricultural associations, corporations, universities, government agencies and countless others from across the United States gather to celebrate the benefits provided by American agriculture. It will feature policy discussions, speeches and salutations at events in Washington, D.C., and in states across the country to recognize the role America’s farmers and ranchers continue to play in meeting the world’s growing demand for food, feed, fiber – and as the White House proclamation points out – fuel.
Today’s observations and events are part of the growing recognition of agriculture’s transition into a much broader role, beyond providing the food, feed and fiber that the nation has enjoyed and the world has needed over the past 100 years. Our nation’s crop, livestock and forestry producers also give us clean, renewable energy; biodiversity that enhances habitats; stewardship of natural, sustainable resources; and in most cases, a line of defense in efforts to reduce global emissions that scientists say contribute to a changing climate.
Sponsors of National Ag Day events around the country are making it their mission to make their neighbors aware of how food, fiber and renewable resource products are produced. And they are highlighting the essential role of agriculture in maintaining a strong economy. For every $1 of United States agricultural and food exports generated by a mere fraction of the nation’s population, another $1.27 in business activity is created. U.S. agriculture exports are valued at more than $100 billion, and every $1 billion in exports supports approximately 8,000 American jobs. Also, agriculture contributes to at least 8.6 percent of the U.S. gross domestic product.
National Ag Day also aims to generate among all Americans a sense of appreciation for the role agriculture plays in providing safe, abundant and affordable products. And while agriculture in this country has typically been thought of more in the traditional sense of families putting in long hours to produce rows and rows of commodities that find their way to dinner tables around the country, what doesn’t often come to mind are the multiple roles that the men and women who farm our productive lands must take on every day – conservationist, agronomist, environmental engineer, logistician, transportation manager, manpower specialist, communicator, marketer and financial planner, among many others.
The evolution in skills required has brought with it a relatively new set of responsibilities that include not only maintaining the productive capacity of their lands, but also the implementation of land management practices that serve the wider good and contribute to a more sustainable planet.
U.S. producers understand that good conservation practices not only enhance soil, air and water quality, but also offer strong economic benefits – a finding particularly true in the production of biofuel feedstocks, an area where growers are using less land and less water to produce even greater quantities of biofuels.
Other examples of U.S. farm and forest lands meeting much of the nation’s renewable energy needs in a way that is economically and environmentally sustainable is the siting of virtually all of America’s no-carbon wind power facilities on rural land; the generation from U.S. forests of the biomass that offer low-emission alternatives to fossil-based power sources like coal or petroleum-based natural gas; and the capture and production of biogas resources from livestock operations that are used to displace fossil-based transportation and heating fuels.
As it does every year, National Ag Day underscores the part farmers and ranchers play not only in putting food and fiber on our store shelves, but also in developing and building the practices and management tools needed to sustainably meet society’s increasing demand for food, fiber, energy and a healthy environment. We commend these stewards of the land in their efforts.