Commissioner of Agriculture Walt Helmick is asking West Virginians to pay special attention to the food they eat and the clothing they wear this week.
Tuesday, March 19, is the 40th anniversary of National Ag Day, a day to recognize and celebrate the abundance provided by American agriculture. It’s the highlight of National Agriculture Week, March 17-23. The event is organized by the Agriculture Council of America and its goal is to raise awareness of agriculture’s role in our modern society.
“Agriculture provides almost everything we eat, use and wear on a daily basis. But too few people truly understand this contribution, said Commissioner Helmick. “This is particularly the case in our schools, where students may only be exposed to agriculture if they enroll in related vocational training.”
In West Virginia, the West Virginia Department of Agriculture (WVDA) will use Wednesday, March 20, as the day to spread its agriculture message at the annual Agriculture and Conservation Day at the Legislature. The WVDA, West Virginia Conservation Agency, and other related organizations will visit the Capitol rotunda to share information with lawmakers and the public. Visitors to the Capitol are encouraged to stop by and learn about the WVDA’s vast array of duties, and what defines agriculture in the Mountain State.
“We want consumers to be aware of how food and fiber are produced, the value of agriculture to our state and national economy, and the importance to our national security of a safe and affordable food supply,” said Commissioner Helmick.
Each American farmer feeds more than 144 people, a dramatic increase from 25 people in the 1960s. Quite simply, American agriculture is doing more, doing it better, and doing it using fewer resources than ever before. As the world population soars, there is an even greater demand for the food and fiber produced in the United States.
West Virginia agriculture facts:
- West Virginia leads the nation in percentage of family-owned farms at over 95 percent.
- Hay is West Virginia’s leading crop.
- West Virginia ranked 9th in the nation in apple production in 2011 at 67 million pounds.
West Virginia agriculture facts:
- West Virginia ranked 13th in turkey production in 2011 at more than 92 million pounds.
- West Virginia is home to approximately 1,000 agribusinesses ranging from cottage industries to farmers’ markets to agritourism enterprises.
- West Virginia produces nearly 90 million broilers (meat chickens) annually.
- West Virginia produces approximately 400,000 cattle each year.
- Timber covers about 80 percent of West Virginia’s land.
U.S. Farm Facts:
- To keep up with population growth more food will have to be produced in the next 50 years as the past 10,000 years combined.
- Today’s farmer grows twice as much food as his parents did – using less land, energy, water and producing fewer emissions.
- American farmers ship more than $100 billion of their crops and products to many nations.
- U.S. farmers produce about 40 percent of the world's corn, using only 20 percent of the total area harvested in the world.
- With modern methods, one acre of land in the U.S. (about the size of a football field) can produce 42,000 lbs. of strawberries, 11,000 heads of lettuce, 25,400 lbs. of potatoes, 8,900 lbs. of sweet corn, or 640 lbs. of cotton lint.
- Agriculture generates 20 percent of the U.S. Gross Domestic Product.
- Agriculture is America’s #1 export.
- The average dairy cow produces seven gallons of milk a day, 2,100 pounds of milk a month, and 46,000 glasses of milk a year.
- One pound of wool can make 10 miles of yarn. There are 150 yards (450 feet) of wool yarn in a baseball.
- Soybeans are an important ingredient for the production of crayons. In fact, one acre of soybeans can produce 82,368 crayons.
Agriculture and the Environment:
- Careful stewardship by farmers has spurred a nearly 50 percent decline in erosion of cropland by wind and water since 1982.
- Conservation tillage, a way of farming that reduces erosion (soil loss) on cropland while using less energy, has grown from 17 percent of acreage in 1982 to 63 percent today. At the same time, total land used for crops declined by 15 percent (70 million acres).
- Farmers have enrolled a total of 31 million acres in the Conservation Reserve Program to protect the environment and provide habitat for wildlife. Since its inception in 1985, the program has helped reduce soil erosion by 622 million tons and restored more than 2 million acres of wetlands.
- Farmers, ranchers and other landowners have installed more than 2 million miles of conservation buffers under farm bill initiatives. Buffers improve soil, air and water quality; enhance wildlife habitat; and create scenic landscapes.
WV Department of Agriculture