Have you been watching the Republican presidential primary debates for the last several months? If you have, you are probably aware that agriculture certainly hasn’t been mentioned by any of the media moderators or candidates. And, in a way, that isn’t surprising. These made-for-television programs sometimes border on yelling matches among the participants. And, then, there is the loud cheering or booing from the audience. It’s not exactly the kind of atmosphere that lends itself to thoughtful discussion of issues.
Unfortunately, that is the world in which we live today. Our political debates often turn into nothing more than sound bites for the evening news. That’s too bad because agriculture has a good story to tell. Amid all of the deficit reduction debates and the Obama Administration’s call for cuts in ag programs, most experts will tell you that agriculture is one of the shining lights on America’s economic landscape.
No matter how this topic is viewed, there can be no denying some very real facts about agriculture in this country. Our farmers have increased productivity by 50 percent in the last 30 years. That’s according to a recent report issued by USDA’s Economic Research Service. This report, which you can read about on page 25 of this month’s issue of Cotton Farming, has some other significant facts.
U.S. farms are more efficient because of the way they are organized, managed and handle risk. Breakthroughs in the use of biotech seeds and no-till farming are credited with reducing machinery, fuel and pesticide use. Need any more facts? How about 30 percent less hired labor and 40 percent less operator labor?
And should we be surprised that the current farm law continues to work as intended – saving taxpayers millions of dollars? Let’s also not forget that commodity programs comprise a very small percentage of the entire funding in the farm law. Agriculture has always done its fair share when it comes to being stewards of the land and being in the forefront of innovation. That’s why our ag sector is the envy of the world.
Being aware of these facts would seem like the perfect backdrop for any of the presidential candidates to talk about how agriculture in this country should never be taken for granted. And it’s not just a case of agriculture being merely an important part of the U.S. economy. It’s actually more of a national security issue.
This discussion reminds me of a bumper sticker I saw recently while driving home one evening during rush hour traffic in Memphis. It read: “No Farmers...No Food.”
That says it all. Case closed.
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