Progress in agriculture brings more than food to the table
ST. PAUL -- Too often, the only times our nonfarm neighbors hear about agriculture is when there is economic crisis on the farm, or when some interest group objects to some agricultural practice. The end result, I fear, is that too many people de...
ST. PAUL -- Too often, the only times our nonfarm neighbors hear about agriculture is when there is economic crisis on the farm, or when some interest group objects to some agricultural practice. The end result, I fear, is that too many people develop the idea that 21st-century farmers are helpless victims and/or heartless villains.
The reality is agriculture is a powerhouse that provides jobs, money and energy to our state economy. It's a dynamic industry full of growth and change and yet unlike many other industries, it remains blessed with an abundance of small family-run businesses. We have our share of challenges, but we also have a world of opportunity ahead in the form of a growing world population and expanding global trade.
The farm and food sector provides more jobs -- an estimated 367,000 -- than all other Minnesota economic sectors aside from manufacturing. One of every five jobs in Minnesota exists because of the farm and food sector. Every agricultural production job supports an additional 1.5 jobs in all economic sectors. More than 80 percent of all agricultural jobs are off the farm in processing, distribution, supply and service.
We Americans also enjoy the world's most abundant -- and inexpensive -- food supply.
According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, the average 1960s farmer grew enough food to feed 26 people. Today, the average farmer feeds 144 people. According to another estimate, farmers now grow twice as much food as their parents did, using on average less land, water, fertilizers and pesticides. USDA reports that the average American family spends less of its total household expenditure on food than do families in nearly any other country.
No matter what your views on economics, biotechnology or world trade, I think we can all agree that American agriculture is a modern miracle of productivity. Productivity allows the vast majority of Americans to enjoy a quality of life unimaginable to nearly all previous generations, and we owe our thanks to the farmers, processors and all others who work so hard to deliver that abundant and inexpensive food supply to our tables.
Editor's Note: Hugoson is Minnesota's agriculture commissioner.