Wednesday, November 18, 2009

If You Eat, Thank a Farmer This Holiday Season

By David Burton
University Extension

The most recent USDA figures show Americans spends 9.6 percent of their disposable income on food.
Compare that to countries like India and Indonesia where residents spend closer to 40 and 50 percent of their income on food.
“It shows that American farmers and ranchers are some of the most efficient in the world at producing food and fiber,” said Tim Schnakenberg, agronomy specialist with University of Missouri Extension.
Due to the topography, most of the agriculture in the Ozarks is focused on beef, dairy and poultry production. Missouri actually ranks second in the nation for land used to produce forages for livestock.
“We primarily contribute to providing meat for the country and beyond. Our crop base has increased in recent years, particularly in the western Ozark region,” said Schnakenberg. “There has also been an increase in corn and soybean production, which provides feed for our meat production.”
There is no doubt, agriculture remains big business in southwest Missouri and everyone that eats is involved in agriculture.
“Agriculture is one of the few industries that have not been shipped overseas. Our dependence on foreign agriculture is increasing and if that becomes a significant trend, it can become more of a national security issue,” said Schnakenberg. “Most people still prefer to have their food produced locally and not depend on a foreign country to feed us.”
Unfortunately, farmers themselves get back less than 20 cents of every dollar paid by the consumer. The balance primarily goes to processors, wholesalers, and retailers. According to Schnakenberg, producers actually receive less than half of what they used to get from the food dollar 60 years ago.
The industry being hardest hit right now is the dairy industry.
“Ozarks dairy farmers are currently being paid less than what it costs to produce milk. It doesn’t take long for that catch up to a dairy farm,” said Schnakenberg.
Coupled with a weak dollar, demand for dairy products worldwide is down and Schnakenberg says this is probably the worst economic collapse seen in this sector of agriculture.
“I just would like to encourage the non-farm public to appreciate where their food comes from. It is tough to make a go of it in farming,” said Schnakenberg. “If there is a farmer down the road from you, remember to thank him or her from time to time for what they do.”
MU Extension has a number of specialists in southwest Missouri that deal with agriculture related issues. Contact the nearest MU Extension Center for more information.

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