As the election season heats up, America’s global competitiveness is in the spotlight as candidates on both sides of the aisle debate their strategies for “making America great again.” This slogan, and the impression that America isn’t a worldwide leader in many areas, is very misleading in my opinion. It’s interesting to note that in spite of the negative rhetoric, our country ranks third competitively out of 140 countries, according to the World Economic Forum.
I recently read an article by Sid Gorham, CEO for Granular, a farm management software company, that highlights how the U.S. dominates in many important industries such as information technology, medicine, finance, higher education and farming. As ranchers, we are well aware that our nation is a strong leader in the food industry, and a nation that has food security will always be a powerful one. However, do our customers know and understand this as well?
In his column, Gorham writes, “The American agricultural industry wins on productivity, price, quality, and environmental stewardship, and it’s time we acknowledge and take pride in that.”
To prove his point, Gorham lists several ways that American agriculture dominates the worldwide marketplace including:
- “U.S. agricultural output has more than doubled between 1948 and 2011, with growth averaging 1.5% per year. (USDA)
- “The U.S. is the leading producer and exporter of corn, soybeans and wheat, the staples for food production. The U.S. alone represents 50% of corn exports around the world. (FAO, UN)
- “These commodities, alongside many others, make the U.S. the top agricultural output exporter with $182 billion. The second closest is Brazil, with $88 billion. (WTO)
- “Today’s American farmers produce 262% more food with 2% fewer inputs (labor, seeds, feed, fertilizer, etc.), compared with 1950. And they’re being more responsible about it: there’s been a 50% decline in erosion of cropland by wind and water since 1982. (Farm Bureau)
- “The education gap between farmers and the general population was closed: by 2007 the share of farm operators with a high school diploma had risen 90%, compared to 87% of all U.S. households. (USDA)”
Despite being a global leader in food production, it seems Americans are hell-bent on crippling this great industry that provides food and fiber for the world. Food is abundant in this country, so it’s easy to take for granted having access to safe, nutritious and affordable food.
Gorham argues that Americans don’t often think about the importance of food productivity. He writes, “Only 3% of our population works in farming and only 20% lives in rural areas where they might know farmers personally. This lack of direct exposure to farmers leaves most people uninformed about where their food comes from and susceptible to misinformation and stereotypes about farmers.”
What I like about this article is it highlights what American farmers and ranchers do well, why our food supply is the envy of the world, and the reasons we need to connect with our consumers and make sure they are well-educated customers (and voters).
As agriculturalists, we need to do our part by engaging on social media, lobbying on local, state and national levels, working with the media, and being transparent about modern food production practices and why they are good for human and animal health, as well as the environment.
The opinions of Amanda Radke are not necessarily those of beefmagazine.com or Penton Agriculture.
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