Farmers: Unsung influencers of American life

By Glen CopeCalifornia-Farm-Bureau
By California Farm Bureau

Well-known political figures, artists, actors, entertainers and the like are deemed to be important, according to Time magazine’s list of “100 Most Influential People.”

One person not on the current list is the American farmer. Now sure, one could say that listing categories of people could open the door to many groups worthy of the list, such as soldiers, police officers, firefighters, teachers and so on.

Why list the American farmer? One reason is that we as Americans enjoy one of the highest standards of living in the world. Much of that standard is a direct result of farmers and their daily efforts to provide affordable food for our country.

American farmers have significant influence, considering the average citizen spends only about 10 percent of his or her disposable income on food. This frees up income that can be used to increase quality of life for all hard-working Americans—income that is used for a better car, home or even college tuition.

Affordable food is one of the main reasons America is the economic superpower that it is. In the last 100 years, American farmers have made great strides toward efficiencies in food production. That same efficiency ensures that food remains affordable as our population continues to rapidly increase.

Farmers are also making improvements in conservation through the use of no-till, precision agriculture and other technologies that reduce soil erosion, inhibit nutrient runoff and increase yield.

Farming may not be as glamorous as the lifestyles of the famous people listed in Time magazine. And urban children typically aren’t interested in farming as an occupation when they grow up. That’s not surprising, as the American farmer’s workday often begins before the sun rises and ends well after it has set.

In addition, the responsibilities of caring for livestock and crops rarely afford farmers the time for a much-needed vacation. Yet when Americans walk into the grocery store and find the shelves completely stocked from floor to ceiling with affordable food, most don’t stop to consider the dedication and contributions of the American farmer.

Today’s consumers seem to think it will always be this way. Stores will remain stocked … food will remain affordable … people will remain well fed. These suppositions depend in large part on the actions of today’s politicians, regulators and, yes, even consumers.

Fortunately for this country, American farmers want to continue to do what they have always done, whether or not they receive the credit they deserve from those in the mainstream. It’s in their blood. It’s a proud American heritage.

In the meantime, American farmers will continue to be among the best “influencers” in our society, whether or not Time’s editors deem them worthy of notice.

(Glen Cope, a Missouri farmer, formerly served as chair of the American Farm Bureau Federation’s national Young Farmers & Ranchers Committee.)

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