National Ag Week is being celebrated March 13-19 all across the U.S., and Tuesday, March 15, has been designated as National Ag Day. This a good time to reflect on all the traditions and advancements that help make the U.S. agriculture industry second to none. Here are some interesting statistics about today’s agriculture industry:
- The top five agriculture products in the United States are cattle and calves, dairy products, broilers, corn  and soybeans . The U.S. produces approximately 46% of the world’s soybeans, 41% of the world’s corn, 20% of the world’s cotton and 13% of the world’s wheat, and grows those crops more efficiently and much safer than a few decades ago.
- It takes the average American approximately 37 days to earn enough disposable income to pay for all the food that is consumed at home and away from home during the entire year. By comparison, it takes consumers about 100 days of earned income to pay all federal, state, and local taxes each year, and over 50 days of income to cover health insurance and medical costs.
- The U.S. farmer of today produces enough food and fiber for approximately 155 people. This number was 19 people in 1940, 46 people in 1960 and 115 people in 1980.
- Less than 12¢ of every consumer dollar spent on food actually goes to the farmer. The rest is spent on processing, packaging, marketing, transportation, distribution, and retail costs.
- One acre of wheat will yield about 40 bu./acre and will produce over 2,000 loaves of bread, or over 50 loaves of bread/bu. of wheat. If a farmer is paid $6/bu. for wheat from the farm, the wheat cost in a loaf of bread is only about 18¢/loaf (est. retail value is about $3.49/loaf).
- Following is the farmer’s share of some other common food products (est. retail value as of January 2011, based on USDA average prices): bacon – 63¢/lb. ($4.99/lb.); sirloin steak – $1.06/lb. ($8.49/lb.); boneless ham – 63¢/lb. ($3.99/lb.); milk – $1.50/gal. ($4.39/gal.); eggs – 90¢/doz. ($2.59/doz.); breakfast cereal – 8¢/box ($3.99/box); potatoes – 47¢/10 lbs. ($4.99/10 lbs.)
- The U.S. agriculture industry employs more than 22 million people to produce, process, sell and trade the nation’s food and fiber, or about one out of every 12 jobs in the U.S. Approximately 3 million people are directly involved in farming and ranching in the U.S., and 99% of the farms and ranches are operated by farm families as individuals, as well as by family partnerships and family corporations, usually multi-generational.
- The soil erosion rate in the U.S. has declined by over 40% in the past 20 years. Today, conservation tillage  methods are utilized on over 72 million acres of crop acres in the U.S., contour farming practices are used on approximately 26 million acres and over 1.3 million acres of waterways are maintained by U.S. farmers.
- At a time when many sectors of the U.S. economy are running trade deficits with foreign countries, as far as exports compared to imports, the U.S. agriculture industry has run a trade surplus for nearly 50 years. The U.S. agriculture industry is projected to have a record trade surplus of more than $47 billion in 2011, and agricultural exports will help support more than one million jobs in the U.S.
- Fresh beef sold at the retail meat counter in the U.S. has 25-30% less fat content than 20 years ago. Today, the average pork tenderloin only has about 1 g more fat than a skinless chicken breast, which is considered among the leanest of meat products.
- Today’s modern combines, harvest over 900 bu. of corn/hour, or 100 bu. every seven minutes.By comparison, in the 1930s, before modernized harvesting equipment, a farmer harvested approximately 100 bu. of corn in a nine-hour day.
Please celebrate and enjoy National Ag Week, and thank a farmer for the abundant supply of safe and affordable food that they provide for all of us !
Editor’s note: Kent Thiesse is a former University of Minnesota Extension educator and now is Vice President of MinnStar Bank, Lake Crystal, MN. You can contact him at 507-726-2137 or via e-mail at [email protected]