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Count U.S. Agriculture Among Your July 4 Blessings

Count U.S. Agriculture Among Your July 4 Blessings

Thank farmers as you belly-up to your Independence Day picnic.

Whether you're a city-dweller or a country-lifer, you're probably already thinking about that July 4 picnic table spread you'll soon be celebrating over. And while you remember the sacrifices of those who gave us Independence Day, it would be good to also remember what really goes into putting your food abundance on the table.

Here's a quick peek at what goes into producing that abundance. It comes, in part, courtesy of CropLife America, American Farm Bureau and the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

A SWEET BITE: When you put your choppers to an ear of sweet corn this weekend, remember the farmer who raised it and the crop protection products that kept the bugs and worms out of it.

Steaks, pork ribs and fried chicken: Nearly all of it comes from animals raised on corn. Some 40% of the 13.5-billion bushel U.S. corn crop is fed to livestock and poultry. Without crop protectants to reduce weed competition plus minimize insect and disease damage, these main entrees would be much less abundant and far more expensive.

Sweet corn: These juicy, golden ears are even more dependent on products that keep bugs and worms at a distance. While farmers often hand-pick fresh-market ears, they couldn't possibly debug those ears. In humid Florida, the nation's top sweet corn-producing state, nearly 99% sweet corn acreage is treated with crop protection products. Without insecticides, commercial sweet corn production there would essentially not exist.

Coleslaw: Cabbage, the foundation to any coleslaw recipe, is currently grown commercially in 12 states. New York, alone, grows 22% of it. But only 38% of cabbage heads are marketable if insecticides aren't used.

Watermelon: What would the fourth be like without them. Most are grown in the humid South. Fungicides now treat 96% of the acres.

Beer? Many cookouts aren't complete without a six-pack of cold beer, which is flavored by hops. Close to 100% of U.S. hop acreage is treated with fungicides to prevent the growth of mildews that would cause irreparable damage to the crop. Without this modern agricultural tool, hope yields could be 69% less, according to some estimates. Some varieties could be decimated entirely.

Modern agricultural inputs help farmers boost yields of many crops, ensure availability of reasonably priced foods, and reduce the strain on natural resources. So enjoy your picnic. But remember the people and the technologies that put it all on the table.

Oh, and don't forget that the U.S. corn crop also helps you travel to your picnic destination of choice. That 10% blend of corn-based ethanol has knocked about 12 cents a gallon off gasoline prices.

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