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Thanks to farmers for food aplenty

There likely won’t be any helium-filled balloons depicting a farmer, tractor, combine, or cotton picker in the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day parade.

As millions watch the spectacle, it’s doubtful any thought will be given to the agricultural connotations of the day’s origin, or of the scant numbers of modern era farmers who provide a cornucopia of food and fiber products unimagined in the Pilgrims’ celebration nearly four centuries ago.

It’s doubtful, too, that you’ll see many newspaper articles or TV segments noting that the week leading up to Thanksgiving has been officially designated in a White House proclamation as National Farm-City Week to commemorate U.S. farmers and their contributions to this nation’s progress.

“This is a time to remember the growers and ranchers, and everyone within the food production chain, who work to provide us with the great abundance of food we have in this country and to export throughout the world,” says Al Pell, chairman of the National Farm-City Council.

Since 1955, the council has supported educational programming to build interdependence between rural and urban citizens. In recent years, the major focus of the programs and materials has been on consumer and classroom education.

Student activity sheets, teacher packets, placemats, and bookmarks are just a few of the materials the council has created to support this mission. In the past year, thousands of these materials were used in classrooms, at civic club meetings, and in other venues.

The council works closely with Agriculture in the Classroom programs, aimed at educating students and teachers about agriculture, and it recognizes organizations, businesses, groups, and individuals for their outstanding work in accomplishing the mission of farm-city relations.

For most of this country’s early history, almost everyone had some involvement in agriculture. It was a necessity for survival.

Over the decades, as farmers improved their knowledge, methods, equipment, and varieties, production increased and more and more people removed themselves from farming to pursue other vocations. In the 1930s, following the Great Depression, began the long run trends of more off-farm employment, fewer and larger farms, and more production from those larger operations.

By 2007, there were just over 2 million farms in the U.S., yet production continued to set records, thanks to advances in varieties and technologies. Despite all the blather in the mainstream media about corporate farming, 99 percent of U.S. farms are still owned by individuals, family partnerships, or family corporations. More than 22 million people are employed in farm or farm-related jobs.

Unlike the deficits racked by almost every other sector of U.S. trade, agriculture has showed a positive balance for more than 40 years. Exports of ag products are expected to set another record for 2008.

Many countries — particularly those in Europe during the world wars — have experienced firsthand the privations of life without sufficient food, and ever since have made food security a priority.

We in the U.S. have been incredibly blessed with the greatest food production system the world has known — something for which we can all be thankful, not just during this week, but all year long.

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