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National Ag Day 2024

March 19, 2024


Although much attention is given to the fact that we live in a technological, industrial world, agriculture remains a critical economic sector. It is a sector that copes with persistent tension between growers and consumers (i.e., growers want to earn as much as possible from their labors and consumers want to keep food prices low). Adding complexity to this conundrum is the fact that success often relies on factors outside of the agricultural community’s control, like weather, and, when growers do a great job (i.e., produce bumper crops), their profit margins often shrink due to oversupply. It takes real dedication to excel in the agriculture field (no pun intended). National Ag Day is a way to shine the spotlight on this important sector and the amazing people who work in it. Jenny Pickett, President of the Agriculture Council of America (ACA), the organization that sponsors National Ag Day, asserts that getting students involved in National Ag Day is a high priority because the sector offers careers in many areas. She states:


Their participation in National Ag Day activities provides a glimpse of the future of agriculture. It’s exciting to learn from the students what they think agriculture will be like in the years ahead, and how their involvement will shape the industry and America as a whole. … From the food we eat and the fuel for our vehicles, to the fiber in the clothes we wear, and the oil used to make kids’ crayons, agriculture touches everyone in some way. … More and more, students and individuals are finding careers in agriculture. The industry needs scientists, biologists, food safety technicians, livestock nutrition specialists, arborists, conservationists — one doesn’t have to be a farmer or have a direct on-farm job to be involved in the agriculture industry.”[1]


The ACA staff adds, “2024 National Ag Day marks the 51st year of the nationwide effort to share real stories of American agriculture, and remind citizens that agriculture affects everyone.”[2] Most people know that America is one of the world’s breadbasket countries and that feeding the world is becoming an ever-growing challenge. Fortunately, American farmers have been up to the task. The ACA staff observes, “Each American farmer feeds more than 165 people … a dramatic increase from 25 people in the 1960s. Quite simply, American agriculture is doing more — and doing it better. As the world population soars, there is an even greater demand for the food and fiber produced in the United States.”[3] The ACA also notes, “[In 2022, the] USDA Economic Research Service [reported] more than 22 million full- and part-time jobs were related to the agricultural and food sector, or roughly 10 percent of all U.S. employment. On-farm jobs represented about 2.6 million jobs, or a little over 1 percent of U.S. employment. Take that a step further, agriculture- and food-related jobs totaled more than 19 million.”[4] Even if you are not directly associated with the agriculture or food sector, the ACA staff encourages every American to get involved in National Ag Day. They make a few suggestions about how to get involved. They are:


• Understand how food, fiber, and fuel products are produced.
• Appreciate the role agriculture plays in providing safe, abundant, and affordable products.
• Value the essential role of agriculture in maintaining a strong economy.
• Acknowledge and consider career opportunities in the agriculture, food and fiber industry.


To that list of activities, I would add get to know more about the global food value chain. There is a lot to learn from the world’s farmers and from logistics professionals who help move agricultural products around the globe and from processers, distributors, and grocers who play a role in getting food from farm to fork. Climate change has also shone a harsh light on the global food value chain. Journalist Leah Douglas reports, “Feeding the world is a big job, and the effort produces [an enormous amount of] emissions of greenhouse gases each year — around a third of the global total. … That includes emissions related to farming and land use, producing crops and livestock, household food consumption and waste, and energy used in farm and food processing and transportation.”[5] That might sound like people in the global food value chain are indifferent to the impact they make. It’s not true. They are impacted as much or more by climate change as the rest of us and they are making strides in addressing the challenge. Zippy Duvall, President at the American Farm Bureau Federation, indicates that farmers want to be included in discussions about climate change and in programs addressing it. Unfortunately, he notes, that sometimes doesn’t happen. He explains:


When companies make pledges or establish goals that impact production and sourcing, they should begin by working with the farmers and ranchers who are on the frontlines. From animal housing to organic production to sustainability, commitments have sometimes been made without understanding the unintended consequences. Over the past decade, there’s been a growing drumbeat for companies to reduce their carbon emissions, leading many to set ambitious goals. … As farmers, we know how important it is to protect our natural resources, our water, and the health of our soil, and we take great pride in caring for our animals. If we didn’t, we wouldn’t be able to raise the crops and livestock that go into feeding and clothing the American people and families around the world. But sometimes, people who have never seen a farm — or a farm animal — don’t understand all the work we do to enhance the health of our soils, keep nutrients on our farms and achieve optimal animal health through precise nutrition and housing decisions.”[6]


Samantha Guillen, Director of People & Culture at FreightWise, observes that consumers now expect to find food products in a multitude of settings. She calls this the “food anywhere” trend. She explains, “[This trend] challenges traditional ideas about availability and requires suppliers to conform to consumers’ notion that food should be able to be enjoyed anywhere at their convenience. Now, consumers expect to be able to purchase some traditional groceries at their local pharmacy, have pre-portioned meal kits delivered to their doorways, or order online for pickup at the location of their choice. Regardless of location, consumers expect their food to maintain the same quality and taste. Achieving this standard while keeping products in stock can be quite challenging for many food manufacturers. Transporting food to local vendors for distribution is just as complicated as keeping up with all the final mile options consumers have come to expect.”[7] Too often, we take the availability of food for granted. That’s certainly not true in places around the world where food is scarce. National Ag Day is a great opportunity to get to know more about the agricultural sector and the people who work in it. It is also a great day to show genuine appreciation for all that they do to help feed the world. If you can find one, hug a farmer!


[1] Press Release, “National Ag Day March 19, 2024,” Agriculture Council of America, 8 January 2024.
[2] Ibid.
[3] Staff, “Promote Ag Day,” Agriculture Council of America.
[4] Press release, op. cit.
[5] Leah Douglas, “How food and agriculture contribute to climate change,” Reuters, 2 December 2023.
[6] Zippy Duvall, “Building Strong Links Along the Supply Chain,” American Farm Bureau Federation, 25 January 2023.
[7] Samantha Guillen, “Rising Consumer Expectations are Prompting Change in Food Supply Chains,” Kuebix by FreightWise, 30 July 2019.

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