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Kentucky, please thank a farmer

By Brian Lacefield Market president FNB Bank, Cadiz

"Agriculture is our wisest pursuit, because it will in the end contribute most to real wealth, good morals and happiness," wrote Thomas Jefferson in 1787.

As an ag banker, I believe this is still true today. Our nation celebrated National Ag Day on March 21. There were numerous events celebrating this day throughout our Commonwealth.

But even beyond that day, Kentucky, remember to thank a farmer.

Agriculture is critical to our state economy, accounting for over $5.8 billion in direct farm sales. This total is derived from livestock and livestock products ($3.3 billion) and from crops ($2.5 billion). Agriculture's overall economic impact of production, processing, manufacturing, inputs, and services exceeds $45 billion and accounts for approximately 20 percent of Kentucky's jobs.

So, Kentucky, remember to thank a farmer.

Kentucky has over 76,000 farms, averaging 170 acres. The 13 million acres of ag production in Kentucky is over one-half of the state's acres, which meets the qualification of a rural state.

The number of farms is declining. Kentucky has lost nearly 15,000 farms since 1997. During this period, the average size of farms increased as farm operations began absorbing acres from exiting operations.

Kentucky lost nearly a million acres of farmland during this same period to the buildout from population growth. Our population continues to grow while our farm acres continue to decline. Our farmers continue to become more efficient to meet this challenge.

Kentucky, remember to thank a farmer.

Our farmers have met the challenge of producing more with less through significant investments in technology, research, and management. Historically, our farmers would improve by managing crops by the field. Now through the use of precision agriculture, farmers are managing by the acre. Our farmers will manage by the inch as technology continues to advance and be adopted.

With these improvements and efficiencies, farmers are producing over 260 percent more food and using 2 percent fewer inputs than they did in 1950.

Consumers benefit from these efficiencies as well. In 1950 consumers spent in excess of 20 percent of their household income for food purchases. Today they spend less than 10 percent.

Kentucky, remember to thank a farmer.

We are blessed in this country to have the safest, most abundant and cheapest food supply in the world.

â ¢ Safest: The United States has fewer food related illnesses than any other country.

â ¢ Most abundant: Our average supermarket has over 4,000 food and food related items on its shelves.

â ¢ Cheapest: The average American household spends approximately 9.5 percent of its income on food. This is the lowest percentage in the world.

For these things we have the American farmer and all of the groups, organizations, agencies, industries, and professionals that serve agriculture to thank.

So, the next time you have to slow down for a piece of farm equipment or have to stop on a rural road as a farmer moves cattle from one field to another, pause, and please Kentucky, thank a farmer.

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