The strength of America’s farmers and ranchers is undeniable. I knew that strength firsthand growing up in a rural community that depended on agriculture. And I see it in so many ways as I meet folks from across the country in my role at USDA—in their work ethic, in their dedication to their crops and animals, and in their commitment to feed their communities and the world. They are all #AgStrong—an old truth in a new format, celebrating the common agricultural roots among farmer and rancher, family business and rural community.
Through these commonalities, many family-owned farms find strength in numbers, in pooling resources and expertise to grow and sustain their family businesses. For many of them, ag boards—with oversight from USDA’s Agricultural Marketing Service (AMS)—are vital to their success, increasing business opportunities and mapping out a long-term future for their industry.
I see the positive impact of these programs in California, where almond producers are better able to withstand a third consecutive year of drought, thanks to water conservation research funded by the Almond Board of California. With more than 6,400 family-owned almond farms in the U.S. (according to USDA’s 2012 Census of Agriculture) the Almond Board’s research plays an integral part in developing the sustainable production practices that help these operations thrive.
In Florida, Jean Sapp, a mango grower in Lehigh Acres, Florida, has benefited from the good work of the National Mango Board, along with about 900 other family-owned U.S. mango farms. “Research is very important, providing us with information that will enable us to expand mango farms onto larger, less expensive properties and expand our market window from a matter of several weeks to a year-round growing season,” Sapp said.
Blueberry producer Adair Chambers Peterson of Chambers Brothers Blueberries, LLC, expressed it perfectly when he described the importance of the U.S. Highbush Blueberry Council. “I don’t think it matters if you’re a corporate farmer or if you’re a family farmer; we all have a common goal, which is to sell our blueberries at the best prices possible, and this organization helps us do that,” Peterson said. Nearly 9,000 family-owned U.S. farms produce highbush blueberries. That’s 9,000 family-owned farms benefiting from an industry that works together to promote and market their products.
Ag promotion programs also work to increase consumer confidence in how foods are produced. The National Pork Board’s recently created on-farm audit program assures consumers that farmers are continuously improving animal care and food safety. Dale Norton, a pig farmer from Bronson, Michigan, understands its value. “What’s exciting about a common audit framework is that it truly represents the industry coming together to better serve the needs of farmers, customers and consumers,” Norton said. “I am excited about this new industrywide initiative to provide high-quality pork from well-cared-for pigs.” And with 61,000 family-owned pig farms, the benefits to rural America could be significant.
There are over 20 national Research and Promotion programs and many ag boards across the country working to keep U.S. farmers #AgStrong. These efforts also strengthen public health and nutrition research, local and global economies, and humanitarian efforts around the world. Their commitment to building and sustaining American agriculture will help keep us all #AgStrong.
Look for more facts, figures, and farmer insights on the @USDA_AMS Twitter feed or the #AgStrong hashtag.