Food production in perspective
November is always a big month for Farm Bureau. The Wyoming Farm Bureau Federation’s annual meeting is the culmination of our policy process where representatives from the county Farm Bureaus meet to discuss proposals adopted at district Farm Bureau meetings.
The Annual Meeting also is an opportunity to visit with fellow farmers and ranchers who spend their time actually producing the food and fiber necessary for the other 98% of our fellow Americans. We also like to recognize our veterans who have contributed so much to our country throughout our history.
We in agriculture recognize the disproportionate number of farmers and ranchers who make up the ranks of our military and also recognize that, like agriculture, people serving in the military are a significant minority of our total population. Recent figures I’ve seen show that the numbers actively serving in the military are less than 1% of the adult population. That’s less than the number engaged in agriculture.
What makes America successful with these small numbers protecting our lifestyle and feeding our population is the adaptation of technology to do this better with less people.
Our military spends billions and billions of dollars training people, developing state of the art military equipment and educating their leadership cadre.
Agriculture – not so much. Of course, we have programs the help educate ranchers and farmers like what the WyFB Foundation provides. Land grant institutions such as the University of Wyoming do research that provides information to make producers better and more efficient and large corporations also have significant research budgets that work to better understand our agricultural processes. Let’s face it though, a new tractor just doesn’t have the same allure as a hyper sonic aircraft.
Some of this helps contribute to the lack of knowledge most Americans have about how we grow food. Occasionally I’ll read an article about someone who is turning a building roof top into a garden. The article will gush about how amazing this is. While it’s great that vacant spaces are being used to grow food, the articles very seldom put the production on the new roof top garden into the proper perspective. The last article I read bragged about producing thousands of pounds of produce. These stories need to use context in order for Americans to fully appreciate the size of food production in our country.
I certainly hope that people don’t get the impression that we can eliminate food production from our farms and ranches and go to growing our food on roof tops. Even with every roof top producing food in America, it is unlikely there would be enough to sustain our 330 million people more than a few days without our fields and rangelands growing food for the other 350 or 360 days a year. At the very least, our policy makers should understand this, but when you look at some of the recent policies coming out of Washington, D.C. I’m not sure they do.
By Ken Hamilton, Wyoming Farm Bureau Federation Executive Vice President