As we halted the General Assembly last week to work on the budget, I have no legislation to report on. Instead, I’d like to talk about something near and dear to everyone’s heart…
“What’s for dinner?”
Most people have no idea where their food comes from. They go to the store and expect a thousand different varieties of plants and animal to be conveniently packaged in attractive containers. They thumb their noses at “fly-over country,” disdaining the people who actually provide “their daily bread.” As if to highlight their hubris, an actor at the Oscars embarrassed himself this week by complaining about dairy farmers.
The truth is, while no one needs indolent whiners, everyone on the planet desperately needs farmers.
Civilization began because of agriculture. The only reason mankind ever advanced out of the Stone Age was because someone figured out that planting seeds in the ground was a better bet than chasing mastodon. Since that ancient time, the human race has risen and declined with the failures or successes of each consecutive harvest. And even though agriculture is one of the oldest of the sciences, it still remains the one of the most progressive, boasting new technologies and innovations every single day.
Thank goodness! Without all those new productivities, poor people everywhere would suffer and starve.
Today’s farmers produce an unbelievable 262% more food than they did in 1950, with only 2% of the seeds and fertilizers they used back then. Put it another way, one farmer could feed 14 people in 1950: now she can feed 144.
Farming is a massive economic multiplier. A century ago, nearly 90% of Americans lived on a farm. Half a century ago, it dropped to about half of the people of the nation. Today, only 1% of the U.S. population are farmers, yet they produce more food than they ever did before, creating the largest business in the entire U.S. economy. Amazingly, one in every seven jobs in America – the selling, shipping, and processing of the bounty of our fruited plains – is created by farmers. Even more ironic is the fact that the farmer only makes 16 cents of every dollar from the food he grows. The rest of that 84 cents goes to buyers and sellers who have little idea where that food comes from.
Agriculture dwarfs all other industries in Georgia with a $73 billion yearly impact employing over 411,000 people. Georgia is home to 42,258 farms encompassing more than 10 million acres of land. Eighty-seven percent of Georgia’s farms are family owned, spread across 28% of our topography and two-thirds of our counties. We have over a million cows and a billion dollars of horses. Our top products are broilers, cotton, peanuts, eggs, row crops, cattle, dairy, pecans, corn, and blueberries, in that order. Georgia has more forestland than any other state, almost 25 million acres, over 92% of which is privately owned.
Farms add oxygen to the air, allowing human beings to breath. Farms suck carbon dioxide from the atmosphere, reducing greenhouse gases. Crops and trees are good for the environment, making America much greener than it was decades ago. Georgia has more trees than we did during World War II, our water is cleaner, and we’re using a lot less of it. None of these accomplishments came from sentimental actors. They are the result of the hard work and constant innovation of our intelligent farmers.
Speaking of smart, Georgia’s FFA and 4-H produce some of the finest young people I’ve ever met. People who complain about the future generation should take a look at these energetic, polite, hard-working students. Our new United States senator, Kelly Loeffler, is a third generation corn and soybean farmer who raised livestock in her local 4-H. Her achievement of the American dream started on a farm.
If it doesn’t come from the ground – it literally doesn’t exist. Every technology we employ, every device we use, every machine we ride, all the fuel we burn, all the clothes we wear, all the food we eat – everything with any substance at all – is either mined or grown from the good earth…
…and it is harvested by farmers.