Ag Day

March 15, 2006

March 15, 2006

National Agriculture Day is March 20 and the whole week, March 19th through the 25th, is National Agriculture Week.

We had an Ag Day celebration here in D.C. last week at the Capitol, and the National Press Club and I want to extend a special thank you to our Ag Day sponsoring partners ADM and John Deere.

Let's acknowledge the breathtaking contribution this basic industry has made and makes every day to our country and the world.

Today's average farm is 417 acres compared to 147 acres in 1900. Today's farmer feeds 129 people in the U.S. and abroad.

Something the big city press doesn't seem to realize, 90% ofour farms are family operations. Although we don't have as many farmers on the land as we used to have, the industry from farm to fork still employs 15% of our nation's work force. And, we are so efficient that our consumer spends only about 9% of disposable family income on food. It is such a bargain and tastes so good. Certainly, that is one reason why some ofus eat too much.

We are exporting nearly 30% of our production. Through hard work, efficiency, and adoption of new technology, we have been able to provide an abundance of delicious food to people at home and abroad.

Times have changed. When I was a boy on the farm, we milked about 10 cows (by hand) and bottled the milk in our basement to sell in my Grandfather's store. We didn't know anything about pasteurization and didn't have the money for a milking machine. My sister and I were the milking machine.

My Grandfather, in many ways, was ahead of his time. In addition to his store, he sold groceries "on line" -- the telephone line. Then, he delivered them in his old Plymouth car. He didn't make any money selling on line either.

My father could pick 100 bushels of ear corn by hand in a whole day. Our combine today can pick and shell 100 bushels in 7 minutes.

Yes, a lot has changed, but the American farm is producing a greater abundance of reasonably priced food than ever before.

Let's all join together in saluting the whole ag industry for its remarkable contribution.

Thank you ADM for making this program possible.

Until next week, I am John Block from Washington.