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Friday, March 18, 2005

Ag has a big impact on nation

Most people have difficulty grasping the impact agriculture has on the United States. They have an intuitive notion that there are lots of farms and ranches “out there” but they really don’t know how big agriculture is.

So how big is it?

Using information from the 2002 Census of Agriculture, if you were to combine the areas of all of the farms and ranches in the country, they would cover the five largest states – Alaska, Texas, California, Montana and New Mexico, and most of the sixth largest state, Arizona.

If you were to add up the market value of all of the crops and livestock produced annually, it would equal $207 billion, more than General Motors had in total sales last year.

If you were to add up all of the people who operate farms and ranches, it would equal 2.1 million – more than the population of Houston, Texas, the fourth-largest city in the nation and more than the populations of Philadelphia, Chicago or Boston.

And those numbers don’t even include the many related businesses that benefit from agriculture, from fertilizer, pesticide and seed dealers to farm machinery manufacturers to grocery stores and restaurants.

Agriculture has a huge impact on the United States, and as soon as Americans embrace that fact, maybe the industry will get the respect it deserves.

Next week is National Ag Week, and it’s an opportune time for farmers and ranchers to get their stories out. Around the nation, members of the agricultural community are converging on state capitols and the U.S. Capitol to remind policy-makers and the public that farming and ranching make a difference economically, environmentally, politically and socially.

This great nation was founded by farmers 229 years ago. Since then, the United States and agriculture have remained inextricably linked. As goes agriculture, so goes the nation.

Today it is common for Americans to misunderstand agriculture.

“Just a few generations ago, most people were part of – and had friends and relatives involved in agriculture,” said California Assembly Member Barbara Matthews, a Democrat who represents Merced, San Joaquin and Stanislaus counties. “While approximately 14 percent of the jobs in California are still related to agriculture, either through cultivation, processing, transportation or sale, the industry’s public benefit often goes unnoticed during the course of our daily lives.”

Across the West, the story of agriculture is the same. More than 200 crops are grown in this fertile region of the nation, making it one of the largest and most productive agricultural regions in the world.

America’s farmers and ranchers are doing so many things right. They are stewards of the land, and they are an integral part of the fabric of this great nation.

The next time every American sits down to a meal, he or she should take a close look what’s on the table – and who put it there. It represents the bounty that American’s farms and ranches produce.

In a very real sense, every day is Ag Day in America.


10: The percentage of Americans’ incomes that goes toward food.

16: The percentage of individuals’ incomes in Finland that goes toward food, the next-lowest percentage.

144: The number of people who are fed and clothed by a single American farmer.

99: The percentage of all farms owned by families and family corporations.

2.1 million: The number of American farms today.

6.8 million: The number of American farms in 1935.

26.1 billion: Total annual agricultural cash receipts, in dollars, for California, the largest farm state.

92: The percentage of young farmers and ranchers who use computers.

55: The average age of American farmers.

236,269: The number farms operated by women.

117.7: The number of pounds of beef the average American eats annually.

66.2: The number of pounds of poultry the average American eats annually.

29.8: The number of pounds of cheese the average American eats annually.

195.7: The number of pounds of flour and cereal the average American eats annually.

20.2: The number of pounds of rice the average American eats annually.

251.1: The number of eggs the average American eats annually.

– American Farm Bureau Federation





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