By Eli Mittermeyer
This column was originally published by the Agriculture Council of America as the winner of the 2020 Ag Day Written Essay Contest and is shared in celebration of National Ag Day (March 24).
“Pass the mashed potatoes, please.” When that heaping dish of fluffy goodness comes your way, you might think to thank the person passing it to you, or the person who prepared them. However, rarely does one consider all the people that brought that food your way.
The food we enjoy at our tables exists because of the dedication of America’s farmers and ranchers. Our farmers embrace constantly evolving challenges and minimize environmental impacts while maximizing food production. They must embrace new technology while respecting old traditions and their business requires not only a significant financial investment, it requires an investment of blood, sweat and tears while battling frustrating working conditions, weather hardships, economic challenges, and more. Farmers do all this to provide us with bountiful and affordable food, so when we sit down to eat, the farmer who produced the food joins us, but that farmer joins more than just our family, as each U.S. farm feeds 166 people annually.
The farmers and ranchers who produce our food must work with countless agricultural providers and suppliers to provide solutions and technology that producers need to meet the challenges of feeding a growing global population. They also contribute to the significant impact agriculture has on our U.S. GDP, and the combination of agricultural, food, and related industries contributed over $1 trillion to our GDP in 2017.
These providers and suppliers also employ vast quantities of talented individuals such as scientists, engineers, and innumerable manufacturers to utilize the farmer’s product. Their areas of expertise vary greatly, from drone technology to chemistry, hydrology, and beyond. Their talents help minimize agriculture’s environmental impacts, and addresses the ever present challenges of feeding a global population. Due to this, the agriculture industry and its employees also join our farmers and producers at our table as our invisible guests.
We may not have intended to invite our legislators and government officials to our dinner table, but they also have a seat because of their impacts on our producers and our food supply. They are responsible for determining federal and state rules and regulations that affect everything from the environment to transportation. They develop our critically important trade policies with other countries, and establish our crop insurance rules and farm subsidy programs. These guests at the table can dramatically impact U.S. agriculture and its producers.
Food certainly brings everyone to the table, from the grateful diners, to 22.8 million employees that depend on agriculture for a paycheck. Their efforts ensure that we are able to have a stable food supply, and as such we should be more than grateful for whatever dish we are served at dinner.
Eli Mittermeyer is a high school student in Illinois.