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Corn+Soybean Digest

Thiesse's Thoughts

National Ag Week

National Ag Week is being celebrated March 19-25 all across the U.S., and Monday, March 20, has been designated as National Ag Day. It’s a good time to reflect on all the traditions and advancements that help make the U.S. agriculture industry second to none.

Following are some interesting statistics about today’s agriculture industry:

U.S. consumers spend about 10 percent of their disposable income annually on food.
By comparison, consumers in France spend 18 percent; consumers in Germany spend 21 percent; consumers in Japan spend 26 percent; and consumers in Mexico spend 33 percent.

It takes the average American about 35 days to earn enough disposable income to pay for all the food that is consumed at home and away from home during the entire year.
By comparison, it takes consumers more than 100 days of earned income to pay all federal, state and local taxes each year.

About 19 cents of every consumer dollar spent on food actually goes to the farmer.
The other 81 cents is spent on processing, packaging, marketing, transportation, distribution and retail costs.

The U.S. agriculture industry employs more than 24 million Americans to produce, process, sell and trade the nation’s food and fiber.
This represents approximately 17 percent of the total U.S. work force.

About 17 percent of all U.S. agricultural products are exported each year.
The top countries for U.S. exports are Canada, Japan, Mexico, the European Union, China and South Korea.

The soil erosion rate on U.S. cropland has declined by over 40 percent since 1982.
Today, conservation tillage methods are utilized on approximately 103 million acres of the total of 281 million crop acres in the U.S.

One dairy cow produces enough each day for 7 gallons of fluid milk, 2.9 pounds of butter and 6.0 pounds of cheese.
This daily production is accomplished by the dairy cow’s average daily consumption of 35 gallons of water, 35 pounds of hay and silage and 20 pounds of grain and concentrates.

Some interesting facts regarding today’s farmer:
The average U.S. farmer produces enough food and fiber for about 150 people. This number was 19 people in 1940, 46 people in 1960 and 115 people in 1980.

Ninety-nine percent of all U.S. farms are family farm businesses owned by individuals, partnerships, and family corporations. These family-based farm enterprises account for about 94 percent of all the U.S. agricultural products that are sold each year.

The average age of the U.S. farmer is 55 years of age.

From 1997 to 2002, the number of farms operated by women increased by 12.6 percent.

There are 2.13 million farms in the U.S. today. This compares to a high of 6.8 million farms in 1930, 4.0 million farms in 1960, and 2.4 million farms in 1980.

Today, about 60 percent of farms have computers, and nearly half of all farms have Internet access. Almost 90 percent of farmers use cell phones.

Editors note: Kent Thiesse is a former University of Minnesota Extension educator and now is Vice President of MinnStar Bank, Lake Crystal, MN. You can contact him at 507-726-2137 or via e-mail at

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