Our nation’s food system starts with America’s farm and ranch families, who own and operate 97 percent of the farms in our country. We enjoy a food supply that is among the world’s best, one that delivers a diverse bounty of affordable, nutritious and delicious food options—a horn o’ plenty that our ancestors could only dream about. But a recent Consumer Reports column (Eric Schlosser, “A Safer Food Future, Now,” May 2016), with its numerous, random gripes lodged against today’s food system, is a little like the story of the ungrateful son who turns away from his father, even though he showers the son with riches.
Our food riches include choice. Whether America’s eaters want grassfed or grainfed beef, freerange or sheltered poultry and pork, or tofu and sprouts, America’s farmers and ranchers work to provide it all. They harness a team of workhorses that includes everything from time-honored methods used by our grandparents to new crop and data technologies that would spin the brightest heads in Silicon Valley. We can apply nutrients and crop protection products precisely when and where needed, reducing impacts to our environment and to the farmer’s balance sheet. According to the Field to Market Alliance for Sustainable Agriculture, farmers are growing more with less—less land use, less labor, less water, less soil erosion, less energy use, less greenhouse gas emissions—but with more safety.
These achievements are driven by scientific advancements, but they have their roots in the farmer’s personal values—the desire to serve and a commitment to constantly improve. While others merely talk, farmers are producing plentiful, healthy food, caring for their animals and conserving natural resources. That’s a triple bottom line our society can be proud of, and I would put their performance up for comparison with anyone’s, anywhere.
So when it comes to our food system, I take issue with the naysayers. Today’s tools, seeds and methods, and the men and women who use them, make our food system healthier, safer and more affordable than it has ever been. The key to that success is our farm and ranch families, who uphold a tradition and a pledge to sustain our nation and nourish its citizens—season in and season out, all year long.