“America needs to wake up when it comes to agriculture … As more and more of our farmers retire, there will be fewer people in line to take their place. Production will decrease, demand will increase and prices will soar.”
Eric Stubben is a mechanical engineering sophomore and Mustang News conservative columnist. These views do not necessarily reflect the opinion or editorial coverage of Mustang News.
Ever since the first settlers arrived in America, we have been a culture dependent on farming and agriculture, whether we recognize it or not. George Washington’s primary source of income wasn’t from being a war hero and it wasn’t from being the first President of the United States. His primary source of income was from his farm; he was one of the most innovative farmers in colonial America.
Although Washington and the Founding Fathers didn’t set any principles for agricultural policy, today’s America has a shameful disrespect for the people who put the food in our supermarkets and on our tables.
The current farming industry in America is far from being an attractive one and, quite frankly, why would it be? The lack of agricultural awareness, funding and support is a potential danger to the agricultural sector for years to come. People who have never even taken the time of day to speak with a farmer or visit a farm are waging a war on corporate farming, genetically modified organisms (GMOs) and the use of pesticides to protect crops.
America is the third-highest crop-producing country in the world, only behind China and India. Yet agriculture makes up only 1.2 percent of the United States’ annual gross domestic product. Less than 1 percent of the 300 million plus Americans claim farming as their occupation, while less than half of that 1 percent claim it as their “principal occupation.”
To bridge the gap between fewer crop producers and a growing global population, many farmers are beginning to find innovative ways to strengthen crops and reduce crop losses from storms and unforeseen natural events throughout the year. One way they are doing this is through the use of GMOs.
GMOs are crops that have had their DNA modified without chemicals to enhance their immunity to weeds, diseases and resistance to severe drought, heat or freezing. But of course, not everybody sees them that way. Many protestors around the country are outraged that modified foods are not “natural” or “certified organic.” However, organic foods are significantly more susceptible to diseases such as E. coli and salmonella than genetically modified foods. With today’s instant media and access to the Internet, everyone seems to think they are an expert on agricultural issues.
Pundits of large-scale agriculture often chastise the use of corporate farms in today’s agriculture system, clamoring over controlled prices and a widespread use of GMOs. Although only 4 percent of farms in America are considered corporate, they are essential to regulating the farming industry. In large-scale farming operations, systems are optimized for more thorough and high-tech harvesting, cleaning and testing via significantly higher profits and funding than small family farms are able to achieve. Corporate farms do not necessarily produce a larger net percentage, but a higher volume of crops.
Perhaps the most alarming part of the agriculture industry is the lack of federal attention or funding towards it. When the Industrial Revolution struck and people flocked to the cities, so did America’s political policy. Ever since the 1970s, the Farm Bill — America’s funding and regulation of farmers through subsidies — has been paired with food assistance in order to win enough votes to pass through Congress.
Last July, Republicans opted to remove the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), formerly known as “food stamps” from the Farm Bill. SNAP, which took up 80 percent of funding from the Farm Bill, was the main attractor to Democratic votes to pass the bill. Although the Farm Bill is unlikely to pass without the food stamps, the separation does make sense. The Farm Bill and SNAP each support vastly different parts of society. Almost all farmers live on rural land with far different needs than people on SNAP, who mostly live in cities. It’s not to say that one bill is more or less important than the other, but each one deserves special tailoring to the needs of its demographic.
Although the Farm Bill passed through the House, it did not receive a single vote from Democrats. One trip through the “Dust Bowl” and a historical look at Democrats’ voting against agriculture will make it painfully evident that the Democratic Party does not support the advancement and innovation of agriculture. Nancy Pelosi and Barbara Boxer’s votes to reduce funding for water supply, while sending more water to cities, has increased rural water prices while making it nearly impossible for farmers in central California to irrigate their crops — the effects have been catastrophic.
America needs to wake up when it comes to agriculture. The average age of a farmer is older than 57 and 60 percent of farmers are 55 years or older. Right now each farm worker is, on average, responsible for 740 acres, opening the door to several farm jobs. Without support and funding to the agricultural sector, kids and young adults will not want to become farmers. As more and more of our farmers retire, there will be fewer people in line to take their place. Production will decrease, demand will increase and prices will soar. Agriculture is currently related to 23 million jobs around the country — jobs we can’t afford to lose.
I can personally attest to the hard work and dedication farmers put into feeding America. My grandfather was a farmer, and I’m from a small town surrounded by crops tended by some of the hardest working people in America. We live in a society where we focus more on petty social issues than the labor of our food source. Support our farmers. We need them just as badly as they need us.