“On National Agriculture Day, we recognize the unique and irreplaceable value that farmers, ranchers, foresters, farmworkers, and other agricultural stewards have contributed to our Nation’s past and present. America’s agriculture sector safeguards our Nation’s lands through sustainable management; ensures the health and safety of animals, plants, and people; provides a safe and abundant food supply; and facilitates opportunities for prosperity and economic development in rural America.” —The American Presidency Project, Proclamation 10158 (2021)
The first day of spring this year is March 19, a time when the natural world begins to awaken from its dormancy to welcome a season of rejuvenation and bountiful growth. It’s a fitting day, then, to celebrate agriculture, an industry that utilizes the earth’s most basic resources to provide its people with a safe, abundant and affordable supply of food, fiber and renewable products.
National Agriculture Day falls on the Tuesday of what has become National Agriculture Week, March 17–23. Founded in 1973 by the Agriculture Council of America, the holiday was created to recognize the crucial role agriculture plays in stabilizing the economy of the U.S. — and the globe — and to thank the hardworking people behind it.
“Cultivators of the earth are the most valuable citizens.”
—President Thomas Jefferson
Just a few generations ago, most Americans were directly involved in agricultural-related endeavors, or at least had relatives or friends in the industry. Today, that is no longer the case, and many citizens lack even a basic understanding of how food and fiber products are produced. The National Ag Day program believes the key to changing that begins in schools, where advocates say agriculture should be a topic of learning for every student, from kindergarten to high school — not just those enrolled in specific vocational training. By building ag awareness, the ACA encourages all young people to acknowledge and consider career opportunities in the field — quite literally.
Agriculture plays a part in producing nearly everything we eat, use and wear each day and has become increasingly important to the development of new energy sources and other bio-products. As the world’s population soars, there is an even greater demand for these products from the U.S. Thanks to the innovation and dedication of those in the business, modern American agriculture is doing more now than ever before — and doing it better, thanks in part to ever-advancing technology and a commitment to protect the country’s soil, air and water for future generations.
AGRICULTURE IN THE U.S.
- Today the average American farmer feeds more than 165 people annually, in the U.S. and abroad. That’s an increase from just 25 people in the 1960s and 76 people in the early 1970s.
- Two million farms dot America’s rural landscape, and about 98% of them are operated by families — individuals, family partnerships or family corporations. Overall, these families comprise less than 2% of the U.S. population.
- Farmers made up 4.3% of America’s labor force in the early 1970s, compared with 1.3% today.
- About 86% of U.S. ag products are produced on family farms or ranches.
- Cattle and calves, corn, and soybeans are the nation’s top three commodities.
- After accounting for input costs — wages and materials for production, processing, marketing, transportation and distribution — farmers receive only 8 cents out of every dollar consumers spend on food.
With nearly $74 billion in economic impact every year, agribusiness is Georgia’s leading industry, creating more than 340,000 jobs statewide. Thanks to its long growing season and favorable climate, Georgia is home to more than 42,000 farms across nearly 10 million acres and leads the U.S. in production of broiler chickens, peanuts and pecans, according to the most recent statistics compiled by the U.S. Department of Agriculture in October 2022.
According to the Georgia Department of Economic Development, many companies — including Pilgrim’s Pride, Chick-fil-A, Coca-Cola and Tyson — source their products directly from Georgia farms and operations.
TOP 10 COMMODITIES IN GEORGIA
- Broiler chickens
- Greenhouse crops
Those deep agricultural roots extend to our local community, as well. In 2021, Bulloch County ranked 18th among the state’s 159 counties in farm gate value, which is based on the price of produce directly from the farm, without markup for things like transportation and marketing.
Based on data from the Center for Agribusiness and Economic Development at the University of Georgia, Bulloch is among the top 10 counties in the state for production in three major commodity groups, as well as many specific commodities within those groups:
- LIVESTOCK AND AQUACULTURE (10th overall) — Beef cows (1st); goats (5th); horses – boarding, training, breeding (7th)
- ROW AND FORAGE CROPS (10th overall) — Rye (4th), cotton (5th), peanuts (10th)
- FORESTRY (8th overall) — Pine straw (5th)
The area also ranks among the top-producing counties for onions (4th), turfgrass (7th), miscellaneous fruits and nuts (7th) and deer hunting leases (2nd).
Behind each of these are local family farmers, who have chosen an occupation that’s essentially also a lifestyle. Their livelihoods depend largely on factors out of their control, like Mother Nature and current commodity prices. There is instability in their income. They don’t keep regular 9-to-5 business hours, and their bodies and minds are almost always exhausted.
AGRICULTURE IN BULLOCH COUNTY
Top commodities: Cotton, peanuts, broiler chickens
County farm gate value: $188,173,833 (18th overall)
County jobs in agriculture: 2,561
County economic output: $445,107,471
A driving force behind our nation’s economy since its founding, their tireless work in the chain of American agriculture provides a steady and abundant supply of food, fiber and fuel for our ever-growing world — and that’s something to be celebrated every day of the year.