I am disturbed by the number of people in this country who seem to take agriculture for granted. Many have had little to no experience with the land and only know what they read and hear from what are often unreliable sources. They jump on bandwagons about global warming, animal rights, energy use or even belching cows, largely uninformed. Agriculture cannot be understood by only reading books or listening to people with political agendas. It is a business that has been passed on through generations of research, knowledge and experience.
Our country seems to have become "environmentally aware" in the last 30-40 years, but we understand little about food and what it takes to produce it. Why is this? The answer, in my opinion, is that most Americans spend less than 10% of their disposable income to support their dietary needs. According to the USDA's Economic Research Service, food expenditures by families and individuals as a share of disposable income were 13.8% in 1970, 11% in 1988 and only 9.6% in 2008. Could it be that food is too cheap or Americans are too wealthy, and we have little need to be worried about where our next meal will come from or how we will pay for it? We hear too much talk about GMOs, cap and trade, carbon sequestration and cows belching gases into the atmosphere causing global warming and too little about the security of our nation due in part to our agriculture industry. Somehow we need to educate the public that farmers, ranchers and land managers are an essential link to the health and success of our society. We should all care about the environment, but land managers must do more to educate the public about the safe, wholesome and inexpensive food and fiber our industry provides to the nation and the world. There has never been a more important time for us to portray ourselves as stewards of the land and educate the public about our business.
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