Farm Safety Week and Agriculture's Place in Society

FARM SAFETY WEEK AND AGRICULTURE'S PLACE IN SOCIETY

Farm Safety   September 20th-26th is Farm Safety & Health Week. To celebrate, we have decided to take some time to focus on expressing our appreciation for agriculture and our nation’s food producers. With the majority of American’s being several generations disconnected from the land it is rare for the average citizen to fully understand the sacrifice that our farmers and ranchers make every day, the risks they take, and the danger in their jobs. Hopefully this article will help people understand those sacrifices and bridge the gap between citizens and soil.

“Agriculture is our wisest pursuit, because it will in the end contribute most to real wealth, good morals, and happiness.” ~ Thomas Jefferson
Years ago, before you or I were even born, people had a deep seeded respect and appreciation for farming and agriculture. There was a universal understanding that seems to be lost among some of the population of today – we cannot live without food, food cannot be made without farmers and ranchers. Unlike most industries, farming provides absolutely essential products that highly contribute to our survival and activity in day-to-day life. Yes, a new Apple watch, video game, or pair of shoes may be important to you, but without food, fiber, land management, and energy, none of those excess items matter. It is also likely that the state you are living in wouldn’t be in existence without this endeavor. Think back to that history or political science class from high school, what do you remember about the Louisiana Purchase? Well, first, it wasn’t just Louisiana. For $15 million dollars in 1803, Thomas Jefferson purchased Arkansas, Iowa, Missouri, Kansas, Oklahoma, Nebraska, and parts of Minnesota, Louisiana, New Mexico, South Dakota, Texas, Wyoming, Montana, and Colorado from the French for one sole purpose: to expand agriculture. Beyond food, which is a reason to support farming in-and-of itself, agriculture brings many other products to the table. Not only do farmers produce all food products but ethanol, fibers, and energy as well. They maintain stable and clean environments through land management, and are essential to our nation and the world. Along with jobs on the farm, agriculture provides countless other employment opportunities for citizens, such as product processing, drivers to move products, grocery stores and restaurants to sell products, and many more. Look at this graph; since the birth of America we have been an agriculturally dependent country. However, as history progressed so did our dependence on other economic models, and agriculture got seemingly left behind. In the 1800s over 90% of our country lived on farms, in 1900 that number had been reduced to 41%, and by 2000 it was roughly 1.9% of the population. What does this mean for our country? Farm Population graph   Among other things, it means an increasing misunderstanding and underappreciation of farmers, which is only perpetuated by the  negative propaganda that demonizes larger farming operations and paints agriculture in a negative light. Less than 2% of the population is in charge of the entirety of agricultural production, thus their farms have to be larger than farms were in the 19th and 20th centuries. If we still had 90% of the population producing food we could afford to have smaller farms, but a minuscule portion of society is being forced to produce more food for the growing population on less land than ever before! As the number of farms goes down, the size must go up. That’s not rocket science folks, that’s common sense. On top of all of those challenges for agriculture as a whole (lower number of producers, higher population, and negative stigma), the individual producers often have their own individual challenges as well. For example, the time it takes to raise hundreds of acres of crops or cattle is beyond comparison to other occupations. Nearly 75% of farmers work 10 hours or more on their farms per day, 17% of which work for more than 15 hours a day. Sadly, this still isn’t enough to support the farmer’s families and as of 2002 93% of farmers depended on off-farm income to support themselves, up from only 27% in 1945. It is the belief of an uninformed minority of our population that farmers are lazy and government dependent, which is as ignorant a belief as can be. Government income support only reaches about 25% of U.S. farms, and even on the farms it does reach there is virtually no impact. The U.S. farming community is full of hard working individuals who bust their butts for 10+ hours a day on the farm to turn around and work night-shifts and weekend jobs just to make ends meet. People are constantly being manipulated into alienating agriculture because of traditional practices and modern technology simply because the individuals don’t understand it. They believe anything they hear in the media and radical groups advocating animal rights and veganism are constantly on the offensive against agriculture. What are some stories that you don’t hear? How about a farmer having rolled a tractor and pinching off his or her leg, a rancher falling from the hay loft in a barn and breaking his or her back, or a retired turkey farmer having to have both knees and shoulders replaced after a lifetime of grueling work? There is a whole week dedicated to farm safety because of instances like these. Farming is dangerous, takes long hours, is not financially prosperous in most instances, and offers nothing but scorn from a segment of society, and yet we still have a devoted class of people doing the job every day. They do it because despite all the challenges, Americans need farmers. The world needs farmers. Heck, even crazy vegan animal rights activists NEED farmers. It all comes down to a quote from a farmer in Barren County, Kentucky, “When I die I would like to be remembered for helping feed the world.” It’s not about fame. It’s not about fortune. They recognize the risk, but the reward of knowing you are part of the solution to world hunger makes it worth it. Who stopped the hunger pangs in the stomach of a 5 year old, tore a child back from the grasps of malnutrition, and stopped vitamin deficiencies from causing permanent damage to kids around the world? American food producers. Today and every day we recognize you for what you do. You have our thanks and support, stay safe!

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