Guest column submitted by U.S. Senator Mike Crapo
According to data from the American Farm Bureau Federation, in 1940, the average U.S. farmer fed 19 people. The number of people fed by our nation's farmers has steadily risen over the years, and now the average American farmer feeds nearly 155 people worldwide. While we should recognize the hard work that goes into food production every day, a National Ag Day was created to celebrate the remarkable work of American farmers who feed our country and the world.
National Ag Day was established in 1973 to increase awareness of the significant role of American agriculture. We honor family farmers and ranchers and the researchers and businesses with which they work. Idaho farm families have grown Idaho agriculture into a $7 billion-plus industry that supports Idaho jobs and our communities.
Historically, as America's population has shifted from rural to urban areas, Americans have moved further from our agrarian roots. The U.S. Census Bureau reported that in 1850, only 15 percent of Americans lived in urban areas. This shifted to nearly 40 percent by 1900, more than 50 percent by 1940, and now more than 80 percent of Americans live in urban areas. While many have backyard gardens, the majority of us do not produce enough food to solely rely on a self-produced food supply to support our families. Thus, we rely on the hard work of agricultural producers.
Because farmers and ranchers rise early in the morning and work late at night, we have the food we need without having to dedicate the enormous time and energy required for planting, tending and harvesting. Thankfully, Idaho's approximately 25,000 farms and ranches are producing more than enough milk, potatoes, wheat, beef, onions, beans, seed and much more to feed fellow Idahoans, Americans and people around the world.
Additionally, farm families are overcoming increasing challenges to provide this food. They face increasing pressures on farm and ranch land, including excess regulations and paperwork requirements, tax uncertainty, high input costs, limited water, emerging pests and plant and animal diseases. We can help create better conditions for agricultural producers to feed the world by staying at the forefront of investment in agricultural technologies and research, ensuring the wise use of water and other limited resources, expanding the use of conservation practices that help enable long-term agricultural production, advancing economic reforms that put American producers on better footing, reducing unnecessary regulatory burden and decreasing foreign trade barriers that limit access to reaching consumers around the world.
Our nation's first President George Washington wrote, "I know of no pursuit in which more real and important services can be rendered to any country than by improving its agriculture, . . ." Like the need for clean water, we need food to live. An under-rated less than 2 percent of our population is producing the food necessary for millions of Americans and families around the world. Thank you, Idaho farmers and ranchers for your hard work.
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