Tuesday, August 17, 2010

American Farming Perceptions & Facts

My son, Jack, holding some freshly cut alfalfa hay
The Progressive Farmer magazine, August 2010 issue, published a piece titled “The Real American Farmer”. This article features stories about farm families. It also shares some interesting perceptions and facts about agriculture. Since most people that read Progressive Farmer magazine are farmers, I wanted to post this information in hopes that it would reach those not involved in farming. 

Perception: Large corporate farms produce most U.S. food.
Fact: While it’s true that less than 10% of all farms grow 62% of the U.S. crops, most are family farms. Specifically, 99% of U.S. farms and ranches are owned by individuals, family corporations and partnerships. More than 2 million farms are family owned compared with about 7,000 non-family-controlled corporate farms.
Source: U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA)

Perception: Livestock antibiotics and growth promotants are bad for animals and for humans.
Fact: Antibiotics protect animal health. What’s more, no meat sold in the U.S. can contain antibiotic residues that violate Food and Drug Administration (FDA) standards. Growth promotants improve an animal’s ability to gain more lean muscle from less feed. Growth promotants help reduce the total cost of beef production by $50 to $80 per animal and lower the cost of retail beef by 20 to 30 cents per pound. Without growth-promoting hormones, beef supplies would shrink and the average retail price would rise 10 to 15%. Growth promotants are thoroughly tested by FDA. Since 1967 the Federal Meat Inspection Act has required USDA to test for product residues. Through 2005, the most current data available, zero residue violations were reported.
Source: USDA & FDA
Brenda’s note: See my blog titled “The Truth about Antibiotic Use" to learn why no milk contains antibiotics.

Perception: Manure is a threat to water sources and to the environment.
Fact: Properly managed manure systems will not contaminate groundwater or surface water. Studies show groundwater nitrate concentration is high in heavily populated areas even though nitrogen loadings from commercial fertilizer and manure may be low. Likewise, phosphorus concentrations exceed limits in 75% of sampled urban streams versus 25% of sampled agriculture streams.
Source: EPA and U.S. Geologic Survey

Perception: Agriculture increases greenhouse gas emissions and contributes to global warming.
Fact: The entire U.S. agricultural sector accounts for only about 6% of total U.S. greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions; livestock production is just over 2%. Fossil fuel combustion contributes to about 79% of all GHG emissions. Additionally, billions of pounds of greenhouse gases from the atmosphere are captured in conservation-tilled soils.
Source: U.S. EPA

Perception: Farmers’ use of chemicals harms the environment.
Fact: Better product formulations in the past 20 years have made products less toxic and more degradable. In addition, the introduction of herbicide- and insecticide-tolerant crops has decreased herbicide active ingredient use by more than 47 million pounds in soybeans and cotton and insecticide active ingredient use by nearly 9 million pounds in cotton and corn.
Source: Conservation Technology Information Center

Perception: Biotech food is not necessary or safe.
Fact: Biotech crops have been commercialized for nearly 15 years, and today are grown by more than 10 million farmers in 22 countries. The higher yields from biotech crops will help feed a global population expected to surpass 9 billion people by 2050. Biotech foods are non-toxic to animals and humans. The meat, milk and eggs from farm animals fed biotech feed are exactly the same as those from animals eating conventional feed. Future biotech crops are expected to address production issues related to drought, enrich vital nutrients, remove natural toxins and help solve such problems as vitamin A deficiency and allergies. Biotech feeds also may help decrease phosphorus and nitrogen excretion in livestock, total manure excretion and offensive odors.
Source: Chris Leaver, Professor of Plant Science at Oxford University

American farmers work hard every day to produce safe, quality and affordable food for consumers. After all, as farmers we feed our family the same agriculture products you do. Farmers are good stewards of the land and provide excellent animal care. There are lots of myths out there about farming practices. Some are quick to condemn practices like livestock antibiotic use and biotechnology before they take the time to learn about how these tools can be positive and actually enhance food production. I hope the above information provides insight to those not involved in production agriculture.

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