EAST LANSING, MI. – Just like everyone else at this time of the year, farmers are ready for spring, a new year, nice weather to be outdoors and planting seeds or nurturing newly born animals.  Therefore it is appropriate to have celebrated agriculture on March 24, 2021 as National Agriculture Day.

A recent survey by the United Soybean Board found that U.S. farmers ranked as the most trusted members of the food supply chain when it comes to ensuring its safety, taking the top spot in 78 percent to consumer responses. Some highlights of this survey included:

• The vast majority of consumers, 79 percent, have a very or somewhat positive view of U.S. farmers who grow crops.

• Consumers are united in their support for domestic agriculture, with 70 percent saying its somewhat or very important to purchase food made with U.S. grown crops.

• Soy is seen as healthy (60 percent) or neutral (26 percent) by most consumers, but less than half (44 percent) are aware that the soybeans used to make their favorite products are grown sustainably.

• Two-thirds (66 percent) of consumers felt more positive about soy protein and soybean oil as an ingredient in many food products after reading about the sustainability of soybeans.

Growing higher quality wheat on the farm is another example of a commodity that directly affects consumers.  Diane Gannon now retired but former Quality Control Manager of the Nabisco Flour Mill in Toledo spoke to farmers several years ago about growing higher quality wheat.  She emphasized that higher quality wheat makes for higher quality wheat flour, which makes for higher quality cookies, crackers and other Nabisco products.  The flour mill makes 6 million pounds of flour a day that goes to 12 bakeries in the eastern U.S.  Not only do the retail products have to look and taste good, they also have to bake properly so they can fit into the package!

The new 2021 World of Corn summary was just released by the National Corn Growers Association.  Of the six types of corn, we are primarily talking about #2 yellow dent corn whereas corn used for corn chips is typically #1 food grade white corn.  Generically speaking, corn is used for food, feed, fuel, fiber, medicine.  This could include corn starch to help prevent bandages from sticking, or molded and bioplastics, or corn cobs used in cosmetics, or in feed for livestock including pets.  

And corn is the only major grain that is native to North America, with some popcorn found in bat caves in Mexico that are over 5,600 years old.  Soybeans are native to China and southeast Asia.  Wheat is the #2 grain in the world where people could eat a wheat product perhaps even three times a day and is from the Middle East.  However, about two-thirds of the world’s population eat rice.  

It was four years ago, on March 15, 2017 that MSU signed an agreement with MCCC to start offering agriculture through the MSU Institute of Agriculture Technology.  I would guess that 90+ percent of the students will never be farmers, but likely find other careers in the field of agriculture.  Some of these jobs could include; research, marketing, packaging, greenhouse, floriculture, horticulture, computers and farm software, drones, turf and sod, organic, media, including social media, advertising, mass communications, processing, retail, banking, education, landscape architecture, golf course superintendents, mechanics, shipping, urban farming and planning, and energy, among many others.  

Did you know that universities pay for weed seed?  When I was a graduate student at the University of Illinois, good, clean weed seed cost around $15 per quart.  Who thinks to farm for weeds?  Now there is research into hops and malting barley for craft beverages and the fiber of industrial hemp for wood or metal replacement parts.

Other 2017 Census of Agriculture facts includes:

•    There are 896.6 million acres of farmland in the US; 9,764,000 acres of farmland in Michigan and 209,838 acres in Monroe County.

•    In 2017, 96 percent of US and Michigan farms were family owned; in Monroe County 98 percent are family farms.

•    84 percent of Monroe County farmers have internet access as compared to 77 percent of Michigan farmers.  

•    The market value of products sold from the farm is over $8 billion for Michigan and over $174 million for Monroe County.  

•    Michigan is the second most diverse agriculture state in the nation, producing over 300 commodities, exceeded only by California.  

Agriculture provides healthy and locally grown food, biofuels that are carbon friendly, high protein livestock feed and fiber.  Each American farmer produces enough to feed over 150 people here and worldwide.  This abundance is not matched anywhere in the world and allow Americans to eat varied and healthy foods at a lower portion (about 13 percent) of their disposable income than any other country.  

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