Thank you to the farmers who have fought for and developed the foundation of our country.
This Thursday marks the 243rd celebration of our great country’s independence. Many of us will likely spend the afternoon engaged in a great American tradition, the backyard barbecue. As you sit down to enjoy your perfectly cooked cheeseburger or bite into that hot, buttery ear of sweetcorn, don’t forget to thank one of the most enduring symbols of our independence – the American farmer.
It was American farmers that put down their shovels and hoes, picked up rifles and went off to war to fight for our independence during the Revolutionary War. In fact, many historians estimate that farmers made up more than 50 percent of the militiamen during the Revolutionary War. Without them, it’s likely we would have no reason to celebrate this week at all.
That sense of fierce independence lead farmers west during the great expansion period in the middle of the 19th century. While the U.S. government signed the Homestead Act in 1862, it was the American farmer who had the fortitude and sheer will to pack up and chase opportunity across a vast plain of empty prairieland to build a future for themselves and their children.
Perhaps one of the most underappreciated things the American farmer has done is to build the foundation for our powerhouse economy. Many economists are quick to point out that American farmers exported $140 billion worth of product in 2017 alone. And while this is indeed impressive, it’s only a small fraction of how farmers power our economy.
I am referencing another type of independence, food independence. It’s one of the key drivers of American innovation over the last 75 years, and many of us never stop to think about it. Farmers have taken on the challenge of building a stable, affordable and safe agricultural system that requires less than 2 percent of the population be directly involved in production agriculture, while requiring a national average of less than 15 percent of household income be spent on food. This often overlooked fact is what has driven American innovation for the last 75 years. Freeing up a huge labor force to pursue innovation and technology, while creating a population with more disposable income left to spend than anywhere else in the world.
American farmers helped establish American independence in 1776, and they’ve been working hard ever since to preserve that independence for all of us. So, this Fourth of July, don’t forget to reflect on how critically important farmers are to the American dream. You can use it as an excuse to eat that last hot dog or enjoy one more cold beer. You’re just being a patriot, doing everything you can to support our farmers.
Happy Independence Day to all of our readers!