As we mark National Agriculture Day, I want to give special recognition to our farmers, ranchers and producers for their spirit of innovation. Too often, Americans don’t take time to recognize the unique strength we have as a nation thanks to the innovation of American agriculture, and the willingness of our farmers, ranchers and producers to embrace new production methods.
We have a tremendously productive agriculture sector in the United States. In my lifetime, agriculture production has tripled. In 1950, a dairy cow produced about 5,300 pounds of milk each year; today, it’s 22,000 pounds per year.
This innovation provides an abundant food supply, which keeps costs for all Americans low at the grocery store. In fact, we spend a lower percentage of our income on food than the people of any other developed nation. And thanks to the productivity of American agriculture, we’re still able to export food around the world. The past four years have been the strongest in history for U.S. agricultural exports, which support more than a million jobs here at home.
At USDA, supporting innovation and productivity in agriculture is a mission-critical element of our work.
In recent years, USDA researchers and our university partners have helped uncover the genomes of pigs, turkeys, tomatoes, beans and more – all of which will help producers build on today’s modern farming and ranching methods.
U.S. Forest Service researchers are looking into new uses for wood fibers in construction, body armor and other products, while investing in more than 150 groundbreaking projects to use wood as an energy source.
Our employees across the nation and around the world are working hard to ensure reliable delivery of the farm safety net, a robust Federal Crop Insurance program, open markets around the world and protection from invasive plants and animals.
And for the 98 percent of Americans who don’t call the farm or ranch home, we’ve helped to strengthen understanding about agriculture. USDA’s Know Your Farmer, Know Your Food effort has helped to strengthen local and regional food systems, and our Farm to School program is opening new doors to bring healthy, locally-sourced fruits and vegetables to our young people.
USDA is able to continue the most vital of these activities even as we implement across-the-board spending cuts, thanks to our efforts since 2009 to find more than $700 million in efficiencies. We’ve taken all of these steps because we deeply appreciate the work of America’s farmers and ranchers – and we know that we have a critical duty to support their efforts.
There’s no better time than today for all Americans to reflect on the contributions of American agriculture to the strength of our nation, and to say “Thank You” to farmers, ranchers and producers across the country. At USDA, we will keep doing our best to support their great work.