American Agriculture: Nourishing Opportunities
By Whitney Bowman
American agriculture must grow to continue to provide America and the world with a safe, economical and abundant food supply. It must sink its roots into Mother Nature’s solid foundation, reach outward toward new technologies and remain true to the solid support of hard work, responsibility and perseverance that have made it the most productive in the world.
American agriculture nurtures the environment.
As the population increases and houses cover arable land, the importance of environmental stewardship will skyrocket in the future. Unseen opportunities will arise as American farmers increase production with fewer resources and pollution. In the mid-1800s, this meant simply planting trees on new prairie homesteads. Today, farmers plant fields without disturbing the soil and also use plant buffers to naturally filter pollution from water.
As fossil fuels are depleted, agriculture could hold the key to America’s energy sustainability, producing resources such as ethanol, methane and even wind energy on agricultural lands. Farmers hold a deep, unique connection with the earth, nurturing it to produce food for themselves and the world.
American agriculture nurtures technology.
With the world population expected to reach nine billion by the year 2050, America will need to revolutionize agricultural production. Biotechnology enables farmers to produce crops that are drought-tolerant, fortified with vitamins and resistant to pests. Farmers are utilizing technology to pinpoint areas in fields needing fertilizer or irrigation, replacing manpower with robotics and utilizing airplanes to spray and plant fields. Advances in processing help reduce disease outbreaks, improve worker safety and make food products economical. As American agriculture nurtures technology, it is becoming more efficient.
American agriculture nurtures relationships.
With farmers comprising fewer than 2 percent of Americans, connecting with consumers is both a huge challenge and an exhilarating opportunity. Uninformed consumers block agriculture’s progress, but informed consumers are agriculture’s most valuable cheerleaders. The resurgence of locally grown foods and farmers’ markets has opened dialogue between producers and consumers and nurtured relationships. Agriculturalists must continue the conversation by contacting their representatives, inviting the public to their farms and telling their stories through avenues such as social media.
Through the centuries, American agriculture has grown and overcome the challenges in its way. Clearly, even more opportunities for growth lie ahead.
(High school senior Whitney Bowman is from a Farm Bureau family in Virginia. This column was adapted from her winning submission to the 2013 National Ag Day Essay Contest. National Ag Day is March 19, 2013.)
© 2013 American Farm Bureau Federation