March 15, 2017
“From The Grocery Store!”
Unfortunately, this is the response from more and more children and young adults across the U.S. when asked, "Where does your food come from?" Nebraskans may be less inclined to respond this way, but even in Nebraska, where agriculture is our number one industry, there is a growing disconnect between the food we eat and where it was produced.
Nebraska is blessed to have abundant natural resources. Nebraska's farms and ranches utilize 45.2 million acres - 91% of the state's total land area. Nebraska is fortunate to have aquifers below it. If poured over the surface of the state, the water in those aquifers would have a depth of 37.9 feet.
The state has 96,131 registered, active irrigation wells supplying water to over 8.3 million acres of harvested cropland and pasture. Almost half of Nebraska's cropland is irrigated. Nearly 24,000 miles of rivers and streams add to Nebraska's bountiful natural resources. Finally, there are nearly 23 million acres of rangeland and pastureland in Nebraska - half of which is in the Sandhills.
How important is agriculture in Nebraska? Consider that:
• One in four jobs in Nebraska is related to agriculture.
• Cash receipts from farm marketings contributed over $23 billion to Nebraska's economy in 2015.
• Nebraska is fourth among states in agricultural exports, totaling $6.4 billion in 2015. Each dollar in exports generates $1.22 in additional economic activities such as transportation, warehousing, financing and production. This translates into an additional $7.8 billion in economic activity.
• Nebraska had 48,700 farms and ranches in 2015. The average operation consisted of 928 acres.
In 2015, less than 2% of the U.S. population are farm or ranch families. Looking back at 30-year intervals, compare this to: 3% in 1989, 9% in 1959, 23% in 1929, 39% in 1899, and almost half, 47%, in 1869. U.S. and Nebraska farmers are increasingly efficient. Fewer and fewer farmers are feeding more and more people with less inputs than in the past.
Today's farmers produce 262 percent more food with 2 percent fewer inputs, including labor, seeds, feed, fertilizer, etc., compared to 1950. Each American farmer feeds about 144 people while only receiving about 16 cents out of every dollar spent at home and away from home. In 1980, farmers received about 31 cents out of each food dollar.
We hear a lot of negative comments about commercial or foreign corporations taking over agricultural production. Consider that there are about two million farms and ranches across the U.S. and about 99 percent of these farms and ranches are operated by families... individuals, family partnerships or family corporations.
So let's make a special effort to take time this week during National Ag Week (March 19-25) to:
• Understand how food and fiber products are produced.
• Value the essential role of agriculture in maintaining a strong economy.
• Consider career opportunities in agriculture and the food and fiber industry.
And most importantly, thank a farmer or rancher for the role they play in providing safe, abundant and affordable food products