American agriculture: generations nourishing generations
By Scott Reiter (Extension Agent)
American Agriculture: Generations Nourishing Generations is the theme for National Agriculture Week March 17-23, 2013. This is also the celebration of the 40th National Agriculture Day on March 19. Agriculture provides almost everything we eat, use, and wear on a daily basis. But too few people truly understand this contribution
More than three million people farm or ranch in the United States. Individuals, family partnerships or family corporations operate almost 99 percent of U.S. farms. Over 22 million people are employed in farm or farm-related jobs, including production agriculture, farm inputs, processing and marketing and wholesale and retail sales. Virginia has over 47,000 farms and provides 357,000 of those jobs. Agriculture and forestry has a $79 billion impact in Virginia making it the states largest industry.Forty-one percent of U.S. total land area is farmland (938.28 million acres). Virginia has 8.1 million acres of farmland which is 32% of the states land area. We have lost 500,000 acres of farmland in Virginia to development of housing, roads, and other industry since 2002.
The top five Virginia agricultural commodities are poultry and eggs, cattle and calves, dairy products, corn, wheat, and soybeans, and nursery-greenhouse production. U.S. farmers produce 46% of the world’s soybeans, 41% of the world’s corn, 20.5% of the world’s cotton and 13% of the world’s wheat. In the Petersburg area, crop production of corn, soybeans, wheat, cotton, tobacco, and peanuts are the leading source of income. Cattle and calves, nursery & greenhouse, and dairy follow in value. There are also numerous small farms selling vegetables directly to consumers. Many local vegetable farms can be found in the “Buy Fresh, Buy Local” guides(www.buylocalvirginia.org) or the Virginia Grown Guide (www.virginiagrown.com)
Virginia ranks high nationally in the production of many crops. Leaf tobacco, 3rd in the nation; fresh market tomatoes, 4th; turkeys and wine, 5th; apples, summer potatoes, and fresh market snap beans, 6th; grapes, 8th; peanuts and sweet potatoes, 9th; and fresh market cucumbers, 10th. As you can see, Agriculture is abundant in variety and amounts of products produced.
- The efficiency of U.S. farmers benefits the United States consumer in the pocketbook. Americans spend less on food than any other developed nation in the world. American consumers spend the lowest percentage of their annual income on food – just 10 percent.
- A farmer receives about 19¢ for the wheat in a 1 pound loaf of bread, they get about 10¢ for the corn in an 18 ounce box of corn flakes, and a dairy farmer receives about $1.72 for his fluid milk in 1 gallon of milk at current market prices. The rest of the retail price is processing, packaging, transportation, and profit margins.
- Agriculture generates 20% of the U.S. Gross Domestic Product.
- One-fourth of the world’s beef and nearly one-fifth of the world’s grain, milk and eggs are produced in the U.S.
- The United States exports $43.5 billion in agriculture products and imports $26.4 billion in farm products, equaling a positive net trade balance of $17.1 billion.
- Cotton is by the far the most dominant fiber produced in the United States and is used for apparel, home fabrics as well as industrial uses.
- Farmers use reduced tillage practices on more than 72 million acres to prevent erosion.
- Farmers maintain over 1.3 million acres of grass waterways, allowing water to flow naturally from crops without eroding soil
- Agricultural land provides habitat for 75 percent of the nation’s wildlife.
- Forests cover 16 million acres in Virginia and the forestry industry generates over $25 billion in timber, manufacturing, and supporting industries.
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