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Agriculture’s role continues to grow

By Whitney Bowman

American agriculture nurtures the environment, technology and relationships.
American agriculture must grow to continue to provide America and the world with a safe, economical and abundant food supply. It must sink its roots into Mother Nature’s solid foundation, reach outward toward new technologies and remain true to the solid support of hard work, responsibility and perseverance that have made it the most productive in the world.
As population grows and houses cover more land, environmental stewardship grows in importance.Unseen opportunities will arise as American farmers increase production with fewer resources and less pollution. In the mid-1800s, this meant simply planting trees on new homesteads. Today, farmers plant fields without disturbing the soil and also use plant buffers to naturally filter pollution from water.
As fossil fuels are depleted, agriculture could hold the key to America’s energy sustainability, producing resources such as ethanol, methane and even wind energy on farm land. Farmers hold a deep, unique connection with the earth, nurturing it to produce food for themselves and the world.
With the world population expected to reach nine billion by 2050, America will need to revolutionize agricultural production. Biotechnology enables farmers to produce crops that are drought-tolerant, fortified with vitamins and resistant to pests. Farmers are utilizing technology to pinpoint areas in fields needing fertilizer or irrigation, replacing manpower with robotics and utilizing airplanes to spray and plant fields. Advances in processing help reduce disease outbreaks, improve worker safety and make food products economical. As agriculture nurtures technology, it becomes more efficient.
With farmers comprising fewer than 2 percent of Americans, connecting with consumers is both a huge challenge and opportunity. Uninformed consumers block agriculture’s progress, but informed consumers are agriculture’s most valuable cheerleaders. The resurgence of locally grown foods and farmers’ markets has opened dialogue between producers and consumers and nurtured relationships. Farmers must continue the conversationa, contact their representatives, invite the public to their farms and tell their stories through avenues such as social media.
Through the centuries, American agriculture has grown and overcome the challenges in its way. Clearly, even more opportunities for growth lie ahead.

Whitney Bowman, a high school senior in Virginia, was winner of the 2013 National Ag Day Essay Contest.

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