Today we celebrate “National Ag Day”… I thought it was very fitting considering our current predicament and battle against coronavirus. It was back in 1973 when the Agriculture Council of American (ACA) created this day to increase the public’s awareness of the vital role of the farmer. It’s amazing when we look back at just how far we have come. I’ve included below a few interesting facts comparing the past and present. I hope you enjoy the information and I hope it spreads to those who know little about our farms but have big opinions about our lives! Keep making it happen my friends, the world needs us more than ever! (Source: Farm Bureau; John Deere Journal; USDA)
Massive Jump in Bushels Per Acre: Since the first National Ag Day in 1973 corn yields in the U.S. have almost doubled from 91.3 bpa to last years 176.6 bpa in 2017/18. Total U.S. corn yield (tons per acre) has increased more than +360% since 1950. Soybeans nearly doubled as well from 27.8 bpa to 50.6 bpa in 2017/18.
Major Advances in Equipment: In the early 1900s, farm power was still animal power. Then, new machines began to displace draught animals and release vast land resources from feed production. In 1915, there were 25.5 million horses and mules on farms and some 39 million acres were devoted to oats for feed. In contrast, the horse population today is mostly for recreation and oat plantings are barely two million acres. An entirely new farm machinery industry emerged and energy sources completely changed, as well. The increases in efficiency were enormous, greatly increasing the area and output that one farmer could manage.
Large Planting Changes: In 1950, U.S. corn acreage totaled about 82 million. That figure dropped to 59 million in the late 60s but is again around 90 million. Soybean acreage has increased from 18 million in 1950 to almost 90 million this past year. In 1950, farmers planted from 4,000 to 5,000 plants per acre. Now, that’s up to 30,000. Total corn production in 1950 totaled 2.7 billion bushels from those 82 billion acres. We are now talking about U.S. corn production reaching nearly 15 billion bushels. Soybean acreage increased from 15 million in the 1950s to almost 90 million in 2018.
Less Feed Needed for Livestock: The pounds of feed (grain, forage, etc.) a dairy cow needs to eat to produce 100 pounds of milk has decreased by more than -40% on average in the last 40 years.
Losing Our Farming Roots: Over 200 years ago, 90% of the U.S. population lived on farms and produced their own food to eat. But today, only 2% of the population produces food for the world to consume. The good news, of the 2.1 million farms still operating in America’s rural landscape, about 99% are operated by families – individuals, family partnerships or family corporations. Interestingly, more than 20% of all farmers are now considered beginning or early-stage farmers (those in business less than 10 -years). Women make up roughly 30% (969,672) of the total number of U.S. farm operators.
Receiving a Smaller Percentage: U.S. farmers receive less than 15% of what U.S. consumers spend for domestically produced food, compared with 41% they were receiving back in 1950.
Need More Help: At the moment about 10% of Americans are involved in traditional agriculture. From what I understand, each year there will be an estimated +100,000 job openings in the sector for food and agriculture science.
Feeding the World: Each American farmer is personally responsible for feeding at least 165 people each year, compared to 1940, when one farmer could feed only 19 people.