Hats Off to the American Farmer

Agriculture has been one of the greatest success stories, writes Mike Bryan of BBI International. And, through the ethanol industry, the ag industry has has played a role in reducing our dependence on foreign oil and improving our environment.
By Mike Bryan | January 20, 2015

Ground Hog Day is Feb. 2 and it will be Punxsutawney Phil's 129th prognostication. No matter what the outcome, spring is just around the corner. Farmers across America will be getting equipment ready, buying seed and planning their planting regime for the coming year.

When businesses start up, expand or undertake a new venture, one of the key factors is an analysis of risk vs. reward. Farming is one of the few industries where the risk-reward ratio often does not apply. Yet, if we think about it, farming is one industry we literally could not live without. The risk farmers take every spring is almost like taking a trip to Vegas and putting everything they own on the craps table.

Despite the risk, agriculture has been one of the greatest success stories in the history of the world. The ethanol industry has been, and continues to be, the bearer of criticism for using corn as its primary feedstock. Yet with very few exceptions over the past 30 years, American agriculture has risen to the challenge of increased demand for food and fuel. American agriculture has played a significant role in reducing our dependence on foreign oil and improving our environment.

In 1900, the U.S. population was just over 76 million and it took 41 percent of our workforce as farmers to feed that population. Today the population is nearly 320 million and it takes about 1.5 percent of our workforce as farmers to feed us.

In the early 1900s, as many as 116 million acres were planted to corn to help feed those 76 million people. In 2014, 84 million acres of corn were planted to help feed 320 million people, plus exported worldwide to feed millions more, as well as make a significant contribution to our nation’s fuel supply. So, if you are looking for a success story, look no further. Agriculture is America’s (the world's) winning hand, despite the risk. It is important to add that all of this has been done with far fewer chemicals and less water consumption than before, farming practices that minimize erosion and research that continues to produce better and better hybrids.

So, whenever I read something about food vs. fuel, it riles the hell out of me, because I know that American agriculture will, as it has for the past hundred-plus years, rise to the occasion. Every spring, farmers roll the dice and bet against the odds, and every year, food finds its way to the supermarket shelves to feed a growing global population.

Ethanol has been a great boon, not only to America as a whole, but to the American farmer. It has helped stabilize prices, helped rural communities survive and helped make farming just a little less risky. So I say, hats off to the American farmer. May 2015 be a year of great success. May the rains fall, the sun shine brightly and your harvest be bountiful.

That’s the way I see it.

Author: Mike Bryan
Chairman, BBI International
mbryan@bbiinternational.com