Column: Be sure to mark National Ag Week

Q: What should non-farmers know about farmers? A: First, I like to point out what should be obvious. Food does not grow on the grocery store shelf or even at farmers' markets. It's planted, nurtured, fed and raised before being harvested, markete...

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Q: What should non-farmers know about farmers? A: First, I like to point out what should be obvious. Food does not grow on the grocery store shelf or even at farmers’ markets. It’s planted, nurtured, fed and raised before being harvested, marketed and sold to consumers.

For generations, Iowa farm families have carved out a living and a way of life on the land. Their lives and livelihoods depend on responsible stewardship of Earth’s natural resources. Farmers know there will be nine billion people to feed on this planet within the next three decades. That’s why farmers in the 21st century embrace technology and responsible conservation practices to improve productivity and implement sustainable practices. This will be essential for farmers to continue Iowa’s agricultural heritage of producing an abundant, affordable and wholesome food supply.

For example, reducing soil erosion and runoff is as important to farmers who grow food as it is to the people who buy food. Biotechnology and precision farming tools allow farmers to apply less fertilizer and produce better yields.

Without question, agriculture is an economic anchor in the United States that supports and creates jobs in research and technology, renewable energy, consumer products, manufacturing and financial services. Its impact is felt across the board, including its contribution to the local revenue base that supports public services. The scope of American agriculture reaches beyond the food on our tables. Its diversified menu creates good-paying jobs and clean energy and factors heavily into U.S. national security.

Q: How can Iowans celebrate National Ag Week, March 13-19, 2016?


A: Let’s recognize the hard work and commitment that generations of farm families and food workers have made to maintain Iowa’s productivity and prosperity. Iowa leads America in so many categories of food, feed, fuel and fiber production. According to the USDA, Iowa is first in the following: pork (inventory, value, export value and sows farrowed); eggs; corn; and, grain storage capacity. Iowa ranks second in the United States for cash rent for cropland; soybeans; net farm income; red meat; and, ag exports. We have the third highest number of farms; milk goats; and, average value of cropland. Iowa ranks in the Top 10 for oats; certified organic farms; cattle; cheese; sheep; alfalfa hay; and, wool. Iowa also supplies a reliable, growing stream of renewable, homegrown energy to run our homes and businesses and fuel our transportation fleet. Iowa became the first state in the nation to harvest more than 30 percent of its electricity from wind energy.

As the founding lawmaker of the federal wind energy incentives and outspoken champion for biofuels, it’s good to see this industry prosper and grow. Iowa leads the nation with 43 ethanol facilities, including several commercial-scale cellulosic biorefineries and a dozen biodiesel refineries that help Iowa lead the nation in biodiesel production. It reflects a real tribute to Iowa’s farmers, workforce and risk takers who are collaborating to build the next generation of clean, renewable energy.

National Ag Day is March 15. Let’s celebrate the people in our communities who make American agriculture so exceptional. It supports a tremendous variety of careers and jobs all along the food chain. These jobs support families and their paychecks support Main Street businesses in our hometowns. Agriculture has been part of our American heritage for more than two centuries. As we look to the future, let’s remember that America’s promise of peace and prosperity wouldn’t exist without American agriculture.

I’d like to encourage Iowans to salute a student studying for a career in agriculture or a farmer, family member, friend or neighbor whose job helps feed, clothe and fuel America. Post a photo of someone you’d like to recognize and use the hashtag #NationalAgDay to thank them for the good work they do.

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