National Ag Day: Celebrating the Backbone of America’s Rural Economy | Commentary
By Tom Buis As we thank our farmers on National Agriculture Day for feeding and fueling our nation, Congress should show its gratitude too. Agriculture is essential to building a strong American economy, supporting rural communities, creating jobs and quite literally putting food on our tables. Our farmers provide American families with the most basic necessity — food — at a cost that represents about 10 percent of a family’s disposable income, the lowest rate in the developed world.
Our country’s farmers and ranchers create an economic boon for our rural communities — providing employment in farming equipment manufacturing, food processing and production in the communities that need it most. In addition to benefiting the rural economy, increased productivity and agricultural export is good for the entire U.S. economy. Higher food production using cost-effective means allows for a stable food supply for the consumer. Farmers also feed more than 144 people each, a nearly six-fold increase from the 1960s.
Agriculture creates economic security for our rural communities and has allowed hardworking Americans to secure a place in the middle class and to contribute to the growth of our overall economy.
The United States’ agricultural industry has encouraged the production of energy from biofuels, decreasing our dependence on foreign oil and furthering our national and energy security. And as Govs. Terry Branstad and Jay Nixon pointed out in a New York Times article, in the past 10 years, American agriculture has experienced the most profitable period in its history.
However, after several years of rising net farm income for both crop and livestock producers, spurred in large part by the additional market opportunities the Renewable Fuel Standard created, America’s farmers are now facing declining crop prices and a build-up of crop inventories that threatens their economic growth. The lack of predictability concerning the future implementation of the RFS is a key contributor to the economic uncertainty many of America’s farm families and rural communities are facing.
The Renewable Fuel Standard has been critical in encouraging investment in new research and development while bolstering rural economies. Because of the RFS, the United States is truly able to produce food, feed, fiber and fuel for our customers at home and for millions overseas.
Now is not the time to consider undoing the most successful energy policy in American history that has reduced our reliance on foreign oil, improved the quality of the air we breathe and water we drink, created good jobs that cannot be outsourced and provided consumers with real choices at the pump.
As we celebrate National Ag Day, Congress should be proud to acknowledge the many contributions agriculture has made to society and the leading role farming communities will continue to play in our country’s rural economy. This is not time to talk about changing America’s most effective policy fueling our rural economies and energy independence. It’s time to stand up for America’s Renewable Fuel Standard.
Tom Buis, serves as the chief executive officer of Growth Energy and previously served as the senior agriculture policy adviser to Senate Majority Leader Tom Daschle.
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