In celebration of the United Nations’ 2014 International Year of Family Farming, this month National Farmers Union (NFU) is highlighting the substantial impact family farmers have on world hunger and food security issues.
“Family farming is the backbone of agriculture, not only in the United States, but worldwide,” said NFU President Roger Johnson. “The role family farmers play in addressing hunger, health and food security issues in both the U.S. and around the world, though not always adequately recognized, is significant.”
Family farms hold the responsibility of feeding more than 7 billion people, 805 million (one in nine) of which do not have enough food to lead a healthy life. One out of every six children is underweight, and poor nutrition causes nearly half (45 percent) of deaths in children under five – 3.1 million children each year. Despite these staggering numbers, conditions have dramatically improved in the last two decades, as prevalence of undernourishment has fallen from 18.7 to 11.3 percent globally.
Johnson noted the solutions family farms offer to solving hunger and health issues around the world. Smallholder farmers consistently have healthier soil and larger yields, and those who have diversified their crops have been most successful in increasing consumption of nutrient-dense foods. “Healthier food production leads to a healthier planet,” said Johnson. “Family farms provide a model for the world to diminish major health and hunger issues.”
According to the recent Census of Agriculture, 87 percent of U.S. farms are owned by families or individuals, and in 2012, there were 2.1 million farms in the U.S, with an average farm size of 418 acres. But according to that same census, those numbers of farms are falling, down more than four percent from 2007, while the average farm size has continued to grow.
“NFU has a role to play in ensuring that family farmers remain competitive and productive,” said Johnson. “Farmers Union is continually fighting at the local, state, and national levels to ensure family farmers well-being so that they may continue to play an integral role in eradicating hunger and health issues worldwide.