National Ag Day Arrives With Spring

It seems each year, as I place a new calendar on the wall, there are new days marked in red to honor something none of us has ever thought about. Of course this month is National Nutrition Month that we all need to be involved in since we celebrated Pancake Day last month that may have pushed our nutrition to a lower level. Share A Smile Day was March 1 and I hope all of you got in a good grin somewhere. Johnny Appleseed Day is March 11 and if you eat one of his apples you may keep the doctor away on Doctor’s Day March 30.

I guess it’s good to remember unusual and special events, but if we are not careful, we could overlook some really important activities that have been around for a long time. One of those is National Agriculture Day and Week. This celebration of our agrarian culture and industry has appropriately occurred each year on the first day of spring for years and is often overlooked by many of us. This year, that honored day of celebration in the state of Tennessee will be Tuesday, March 20 and proclaimed by our governor honoring our farmers. The national celebration has been moved to March 8 to meet the schedule of Congress, but here in the Volunteer State, your Tennessee House Agriculture Committee wanted to keep the day coinciding with the first day of spring since that is tradition and when most of us are thinking about the renewing of plant life, as well as planting for this year’s crops. In fact, there will be an “Ag Day On The Hill” celebration wit h all of Tennessee’s agricultural organizations gathering for the day at the Capitol to showcase how agriculture in Tennessee provides the abundance it does each and every day. Farmers will be on hand to address the House Ag Committee and there will even be a milking contest between elected officials to highlight the day.

The face of American and Tennessee agriculture is changing more rapidly now than ever before. From a team of horses and a good memory in the early 1900s to tractors with GPS and computers with spreadsheets today, farmers provide consumers with better quality food at a lower price. U.S. consumers spend roughly less than 10 percent of their income on food.

The agricultural industry has become increasingly sophisticated. Today’s farmers work nearly three-and-one-half times more land than their predecessors from 1900. Their needs are different, the crops are different and the rules governing production practices are different.

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 7.6 billion people in the world by the year 2020 (it’s currently at 6.9 billion). It’s agriculture’s job to find a way to feed those people. Advancements in equipment technology, crop technology and information management will make that possible. American farmers and others involved in the agriculture industry have met and will continue to meet this challenge again and again.

Nearly 30 percent of today’s farmers have attended college, with over half of this group obtaining a degree. A growing number of today’s farmers with four-year college degrees are pursuing post-graduate studies. America’s farmers are true professionals. Most are trained and certified in the use of agricultural chemicals. Farmers test and evaluate the soil before administering fertilizers. They don’t spend hard-earned money on costly fertilizers and nutrients unless it is absolutely necessary. Doing otherwise doesn’t make good business sense.

There are 1.9 million farms in the United States (78,300 in Tennessee), with 42 percent of U.S. total land area in farmland. Farm acres are decreasing but the farmer is still feeding our nation and the world. To keep up with population growth more food will have to be produced in the next 50 years as the past 10,000 years combined. America’s farmers today account for 46 percent of the world’s soybean production. Approximately 40 percent of the world’s corn production occurs in this country, using only 20 percent of the total area harvested in the world. Individuals or family corporations operate almost 90 percent of U.S. farms. More than 15 percent of the U.S. population is employed in farm or farm-related jobs.

As spring arrives on March 20, and our thoughts turn to planting and warmer weather events outside, remember our farmers and what they do for us each and every day. Join in the celebration, because without the farmer, there would not be a reason for the National Nutrition Day. Think about it. No farmers, no food, no nutrition, no us.

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–       Pettus L. Read is Director of Communications for the Tennessee Farm Bureau Federation. He may be contacted by e-mail at pread@tfbf.com