By Nick Tindall, AEM Senior Director, Government & Industry Relations
Until you have enough to eat, everything else is a small problem.
For too many Americans, this proverb falls on deaf ears. In some ways, American agriculture is a victim of its own success: most consumers don’t appreciate the amazing fact that less than 1 percent of the population feeds the other 99-plus percent, all while providing the safest and most affordable food in the world to boot.
The fundamental truth is that all advanced civilization is based upon the ability of a few to provide for the many.
That is why the work AEM, along with a legion of commodity and agri-business groups, do on ag advocacy is so important. We serve so that everyday Americans – and our elected leaders – do not take this progress for granted.
We strive every day to educate decision-makers and the public far removed from the fields and ranchlands. We show them that the only way to sustainably feed a world of 9.5 billion is through an embrace of modern agriculture and a willingness to invest more in its research.
The effects of modern production agriculture ripple throughout the broader economy, and our society. And I’m not just referencing the 326,000 Americans whose jobs are supported by manufacturers of farm equipment. Nor am I talking about the fact that when we spend less than 10 percent of our income on food, we have further available income to spend on spend on movie tickets, clothes, iPads and a million other things that create tens-of-millions of jobs throughout the economy.
Rather, I’m talking about the fact that the march of technological and economic progress isn’t possible if thinkers and inventors have to worry about the source of their next meal. Neither are artists or writers free to exercise their creativity without a farmer or rancher doing their job first.
In short, everything our grand human society has achieved was built and is being built first by agriculture.
That is why our modern societies can’t afford apathy. Too many of us have only known only abundance, and as a result don’t always appreciate how policy choices on matters such as crop insurance, FDA regulations, promotion of rural wireless or the approval process for new pesticides can affect our farmers’ bounty.
Make no mistake. It does. Public policy is the topsoil in which agricultural progress grows. And, if neglected, it can erode and one day we may find ourselves in another dust bowl of our own creation.
If we take what we’ve accomplished for granted for too long, we risk losing it. And we all know what is in the balance.
“Burn down your cities and leave our farms, and your cities will spring up again as if by magic; but destroy our farms and the grass will grow in the streets of every city in the country.” -- William Jennings Bryan