Agriculture is in it for the long haul

Lyndee Charles

A huge number of awards have been given out in the last 50 years – Olympic Medals, Grammy Awards, Nobel Prizes, and Super Bowl Trophies (too soon?) to name a few. These awards have been used to celebrate a wide range of achievements and placed in the hands of many deserving champions. There is one great champion of the last five decades, however, that has gone generally unnoticed and unappreciated. That champion: American agriculture.

If you follow the news, you may associate the word ‘agriculture’ with many of the hotly debated topics of our time. Genetically modified crops, antibiotic use in animals, and government subsidies seem to be the only things our newspapers and news channels are interested in talking about when it comes to agriculture. I am asking you to take a moment to step back, look at the big picture, and realize exactly how much of an impact agriculture has had on human kind in the last 50 years. The following examples will hopefully give you an idea:

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Crop production has tripled. 50 years ago, there were about 3 billion people on the planet. Add 4 billion more to that, and you have our current population. That is a seriously significant increase. What’s incredible about this increasing number of people is that food production has kept up! Agriculturalists are producing more food than ever before, at rates that were considered impossible 50 years ago. Globally speaking, per capita food supply has gone from about 2,200 kcal/day in the early 1960s to more than 2,800 kcal/day by 2009 (FAO Statistical Yearbook 2013).

More food is being produced without using more land. Our planet and its resources are precious, and thanks to increased efficiency in agriculture, we have been using less land per person in terms of food production. Mechanization, technological advances, better fertilization techniques, selective plant and animal breeding, and the innovation of agriculturalists everywhere have allowed for this boost in efficiency. Our population is increasing, but the amount of arable land on Earth is not. Agriculturalists are well aware of this fact, and will continue to grow more food for more people on the same amount of land we had 50 years ago.

Conservation practices used by farmers are preserving our land. Remember hearing about the “Dirty 30’s”? It was a time when our country experienced the great Dust Bowl, a drought-induced disaster that resulted in crop failure and some major soil erosion. Since the 1930’s, the United States has experienced drought at a level far worse than that of the Dust Bowl. Why haven’t we had crazy dust storms and failed crops like in the 30’s? The credit goes to conservation. Agriculturalists have been improving their farming methods and using conservation practices that protect against wind and water erosion, along with reducing water usage. New and improved conservation practices will continue to arise, and agriculturalists will continue to adopt these practices. If you want to meet someone who sees a handful of soil as precious and valuable, talk to a farmer.

Agriculture helps protect open spaces. Organizations such as Colorado Open Lands work with private landowners (most of which are ranchers or farmers) to protect the landscapes that make our state and our country unique and beautiful. They work to limit development on and ensure lasting protection of open spaces. If you are familiar with that lovely stretch of undeveloped land between Fort Collins and Loveland along Highway 287, you have witnessed agricultural land preserving our open spaces.

I know that agriculture isn’t perfect. If it was, those agriculture topics I mentioned earlier wouldn’t be so hotly debated. What I do know, is that agriculture has come a long way in 50 years. Three times a day, I sit down to eat a meal that is filling, wholesome and safe – I have agriculture to thank for that. Consumers will continue to demand safer, more nutritious food that doesn’t hurt the environment and, despite the negative “hick” stereotype they often receive, agriculturalists will continue to meet that demand through hard work, innovation and dedication. We’ve all heard the statistics regarding the world population: 9 billion people by the year 2050. Yikes! Many wonder how we are going to keep up with that many humans. It’s not going to be simple, uncomplicated or easy, but I believe that agriculturalists will find a way to feed our planet because I believe in the future of agriculture.

Lyndee Charles is proud of her agriculture background. Hit her up at letters@collegian.com

In Brief:

Agriculture has made great strides in technology, and is continuing to advance

Many topics are of heated debate, but ultimately are looking to better our lives

This is the field that will find ways to feed our planet

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