Where would you be without agriculture? Naked and hungry. That is a pretty strong but true statement. National Agriculture Week (March 23-30) is a time to recognize and celebrate the importance of agriculture. Agriculture provides most everything we eat, use and wear on a daily basis.

Today's farmers and ranchers grow more food using fewer resources than ever before. But they do much more than simply provide an abundance of food. Farmers also work hard to provide a variety of food choices that meet consumer demand in today's dynamic marketplace.

Consumers will be pleased to learn of the shrinking environmental footprint of our efforts to produce food and fiber, as reported by the Agriculture Department's Natural Resources Conservation Service in the National Resources Inventory. Analysis of this report tells a compelling story: farm and ranch productivity has steadily increased while at the same time environmental performance and water quality have improved.

Farmers currently produce 262 percent more food with 2 percent fewer inputs (labor, seeds, feed, fertilizer, etc.) compared with 1950.

Careful stewardship has spurred a nearly 50 percent decline in erosion of cropland by wind and water since 1982.

Total crop yield has increased by more than 360 percent since 1950.

It takes 40 percent less feed for a dairy cow to produce 100 pounds of milk that it did 30 years ago.

Today's agriculture is diverse, made up of farmers and ranchers who grow conventional, biotech and organic crops. They also raise traditional and specialized livestock for meat, milk and eggs. Whether big or small, today's farmers recognize that they have an obligation to provide a safe and abundant food supply.

Farm and ranch families comprise 2 percent of the U.S. population. Over time, tools and methods of farming and ranching have changed. But, the values held by America's food producers remain the same: care for the land, care for our animals and help our neighbors in times of need.

U.S. consumers spend just 10 percent of their disposable income on food each year, while those in other countries spend much more. (Italy 14 percent, China 33 percent, Philippines 37 percent, Indonesia 43 percent and Pakistan 46 percent). Of the 10 percent of disposable income Americans spend on food each year, 51 percent is for food eaten at home and 49 percent is for food eaten away from home.

America's farmers are the world's most productive. Today, each American farmer produces food and fiber for 155 people in the U. S. and abroad.

National Agriculture Week (March 23-30) provides the perfect opportunity to thank a local farmer or rancher for their efforts in producing the food and fiber that feed and clothe you and your family. (Information for this article courtesy of “Food and Farm Facts” produced by the American Farm Bureau Foundation.

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