Placed on a national scale, it is nothing short of amazing that so few do so much for so many. Twenty two million American workers produce, process, sell and trade the nation’s food and fiber.  But only 4.6 million of those people live on the farms – slightly less than 2 percent of the total U.S. population

Consumers spend $547 billion for food originating on U.S. farms and ranches.  Of each dollar spent on food, the farmer’s share is roughly 23 cents. The rest are for costs beyond the farm gate: wages and materials for production, processing, marketing, transportation and distribution.

On average, every hour, 24 hours a day, 365 days a year, around $6 million in U.S. agricultural products – grains, oilseeds, cotton, meats, vegetables, snack foods, etc., will be consigned for shipment for export to foreign markets.

This all means more jobs and higher wages across the nation.  U.S. agricultural exports generate more than $100 billion annually in business activity throughout the U.S. economy and provide jobs for nearly 1 million workers, according to a study by North Carolina State University’s College of Agriculture and Life Sciences.

As we prepare to leave 2012 behind, farming continues to face challenges, but thanks to modern farming techniques America’s farmers and ranchers are producing more food on fewer acres, which leaves more open space for wildlife habitat. Precision farming practices boost crop yields and reduce waste by using satellite maps and computers to match seed, fertilizer and crop protection applications to local soil conditions.

And here’s another bright spot. Nearly 30 percent of today’s farmers and ranchers have attended college, with over half of this group obtaining degrees. A recent survey of America’s young farmers and ranchers revealed that 97.2 percent planned to farm and ranch for life. And this up and coming “brain trust” reveals that young ag professionals use computers on 83 percent of America’s farms, and nearly 75 percent of today’s young farmers have a cellular phone, and nearly one-third have access to the Internet.

Considering all these inroads – positive signs that agriculture in America continues to advance and thrive – it appears agriculture’s future is bright going into 2013.  And, as I never tire of quoting signs posted by farmers throughout California’s Great Central Valley that succinctly sum up our business:  “We farm, you eat.”  Short and sweet, but says a lot.

From the staff at Western Plant Health Association, we wish our readers all the best during this holiday season.