Common Questions About Agriculture

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Are fresh, raw vegetables healthier and more nutritious than frozen vegetables?

Not necessarily. Research shows that frozen vegetables can even be more nutritious than fresh vegetables! There are two reasons why. First, frozen vegetables are often left to ripen longer than fresh vegetables. As they ripen and mature, they become full of vitamins, minerals and antioxidants. Second, vegetables begin to lose their nutritional value as soon as they are harvested. Freezing slows this process. Scientists conducted a test on frozen and fresh vegetables. They found that vitamin C in fresh broccoli dropped by more than 50% within one week, but in frozen broccoli it dropped by only 10%. Those only eating fresh, raw vegetables may be missing out on the full nutritional benefit of eating vegetables from a variety of sources.

Are we losing family farms because corporate farms are taking over American Agriculture?

America’s farms are still family farms. Family farms do incorporate for the same reasons that other businesses incorporate — taxes, structure, family home protection, etc. And yes, some family farms are becoming larger to take advantage of efficiencies of scale and to spread out their overhead costs. However, they are still considered family farms. Today, about 98% of U.S. farms are operated by families — whether individuals, family corporations or family partnerships.

Can I eat healthy without spending a lot of money?

Yes. Food in the United States is very affordable. We only spend an average of 10% of our household income on food compared to 30% in India and 53% in Kenya. According to the USDA Center for Nutrition Policy, a family of four on a thrifty meal plan can eat at home for about $130 a week. American farmers work hard to provide consumers safe, healthy and wholesome food at these affordable prices. Additionally, consumers can follow tips from about healthy eating on a budget. These include creating a game plan before grocery shopping, learning to correctly read food labels and researching budget-conscious meals.

Could more people be fed if crop land was used for food for human consumption

Animal agriculture plays an important role in feeding the growing population. Although it may appear that land used for livestock and livestock feed should be used for human food consumption, much of this land is not suitable for growing human food crops. 86% of what livestock eat globally is not in competition with human food. Many acres used for livestock grazing are made up of forages that can only be eaten by ruminant animals, like cattle, and converted to products for humans to eat. Additionally, animal agriculture provides the components humans need for a well-balanced, healthy diet and contribute a number of by-products including leather, ointments and creams for burns, insulin, paint brushes and sports equipment to name a few.

Do agricultural exports help the economy?

According to the USDA Economic Research Service, $140.5 billion worth of American agricultural products were exported around the globe in 2017. China and Canada are the largest trading partners of the U.S.; together accounting for 46% of all U.S. agricultural exports. Changes in trade agreements directly affect the amount of trade between the U.S. and other countries, so it’s important that individuals who negotiate these trade agreements understand the impact it has on U.S. farmers and ranchers along with all U.S. consumers.

Does most of the money I pay for food go back to the farmer?

Not necessarily. According to the USDA Economic Research Service, off-farm costs such as marketing, processing, wholesaling, distributing and retailing food products accounted for 85 cents of every retail dollar spent on food in 2019. That leaves an average of only 15 cents returning to farmers and ranchers. Over the years, this number has been on the decline. In 1980, farmers received 31 cents out of every retail dollar spent on food in the United States. And, while this number continues to decline, the farmers’ expenses to produce food for our country continues to rise.

Does my food price go up because farmers want to make more money?

When you see an increase in price at the grocery story, don’t assume it’s going into the pocket of your local farmers. For the most part, farmers are price takers not price setters. When their crop or animal is ready to sell, they have to sell at the current price. On average, only 15 cents of every retail dollar return to farmers and ranchers. And as food prices increase, the amount of money making its way back to farmers doesn’t always correlate. In fact, in many cases farmers and ranchers see an increase on their end in the form of the cost of inputs. These inputs include land, equipment, fertilizer, chemical, seed, buildings and facilities, maintenance, labor, fuel, heating, feed, taxes, insurance and more. And as these expenses continue to rise, farmers and ranchers continually strive to increase their yields and efficiency so they can remain competitive and profitable in the long term.

Does the United States import more agricultural products than we export?

Agriculture has a positive trade balance, which means we send out (export) more than we bring in (import). In 2019, the United States agriculture exports accounted for $135.54 billion with soybeans, beef, veal, pork, poultry and fresh and processed fruits and veggies topping the list. In 2019, the United States ag exports account for $128.718 billion with soybeans, beef, veal, pork, poultry and fresh and processed fruits and veggies topping the list. United States agriculture imports total $127.6 billion with coffee and cocoa, fresh and processed vegetables, and grains and feeds accounting for the majority.

How many pounds of grain does it take to produce 1 pound of beef?

In the 1960s, information from the USDA was misinterpreted, leading people to believe it took 16 pounds of grain to produce 1 pound of beef. In reality, it takes 2.5 pounds of grain to produce 1 pound of beef we eat in the United States. For the first six to eight months of a calf ’s life it is primarily consuming mother’s milk with a nibble of grass and hay to stimulate their rumen development. An average calf is 600 pounds before it begins to eat grain. 50-70% of a beef animal’s feedlot diet is forages and feed that humans can’t eat. These factors all contribute to the fact that it takes on average a mere 2.5 pounds of grain to produce 1 pound of delicious beef!

If a farm is large, does that mean it is a corporate farm?

Just because a farm is large in number of acres, does not mean it is a corporate farm. Individuals, family partnerships or family corporations own 98% of all U.S. farms and ranches. Non-family corporations own just 2% of America’s farms and ranches. In recent years, some of these family farms have chosen to incorporate to take advantages of taxes, business structure, family home protection, etc. 

Is agriculture a luxury or a matter of national security?

American agriculture is a matter of national security. We have made astounding advancements in agriculture since colonial times. During colonial times one farmer fed four others. Today, one farmer produces food for 166 others. American agriculture is vital to our country! Consider the impact to not only the United States, but globally, if our food supply was interrupted or contaminated. The 2015 House Agriculture Committee Chairman K. Michael Conaway shared, “Agriculture and national security are intertwined in many different ways — whether it is insuring that food is available to meet nutritional needs for both those within our own borders and those around the world, ensuring that food coming into our borders is disease- and pest-free, or guaranteeing that farmers and ranchers have the needed policy tools in place to continue producing food and fiber.”

Is agriculture a necessary industry?

Agriculture is a necessity! It creates jobs, helps our economy and provides our basic necessities — food, fiber (like cotton and wool) and shelter (like lumber for homes). By 2050, there will be nearly 10 billion people on Earth. This is about 3 billion more mouths to feed than there were in 2010. Increasing food production today while preserving tomorrow’s resources will be necessary to meet the needs of our growing population and demands creativity and innovation. Farmers of all ages face this challenge and must continue to be advocates for the importance of agriculture and the need for the industry in the future

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