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CLAYTON RYE

By Staff | Mar 4, 2011

I am a person who enjoys words and especially the right words at the right time. It is fun pairing words to express something in only two words that can mean so much more.

For example, I can say “antique tractor” and that brings forth memories and stories about machines, the men and women who used them, events and displays, and more from just the combination of two words placed next to each other.

Here is another favorite pairing for modern farming: “production agriculture.”

There are a few people who would use the term production agriculture as a description of what is wrong with food production today.

For me, production agriculture is what is right about the way we grow large quantities of food that is made available by merely traveling to the nearest grocery store. Not only is there a vast quantity, but it is available at a low price.

Corn was once moved to town by tractors with wagons holding 200 to 300 bushels. Today, corn is delivered by the semi truck load of almost 1,000 bushels at a time traveling at highway speeds.

Soybeans, wheat, livestock, and other farm products are moved in large quantities at great speeds and with relative ease by truck, train and barge. Once processed and ready for delivery to a retail location, whether boxed, canned, or as fresh, the food is then displayed at a store for our convenience.

Our food delivery system is truly a wonder to behold. Events that are going on in other parts of the world have made me even more appreciative of what we have at our fingertips.

The USDA says that we Americans spend less than 10 percent of our income for the food we eat. That percentage is dropping yet. In 1990, 11.1 percent of our income was spent for food. In 1960, it was 17.5 percent.

I recently saw a list from businessinsider.com that ranked 25 countries whose governments are vulnerable because of what their citizens are spending on food – using per capita GDP, percent of income spent of food, and food exports to make their ranking.

These are countries where food inflation will increase the likelihood of protests and an uprising by the citizens.

At the top of the list of vulnerable governments is Bangladesh whose citizens spend 53.8 percent of their income for food. Second on the list is Morocco whose citizens spend 63 percent.

Third was Algeria at 53 percent. Nigeria was fourth at 73 percnet. Lebanon was fifth at 34 percent.

Egypt was sixth at 48.1 percent and Libya was 16th at 37.2 percent. The Ukraine, known as farm country, spends 61 percent of its income on food and is 20h in vulnerability of its government.

India, considered an emerging economy, spends 49.5 percent of its income on food and is listed as 21st in vulnerability of its government. China is at 39.8 percent and 22nd in government vulnerability.

China is importing huge amounts of food to feed its citizens. The citizens of both China and India want to improve their diets with better quality food with the wealth created from their growing economies.

Occasionally, we will hear someone complain about our country’s cheap food policy. Governments can be overthrown by hungry citizens so our cheap food policy adds to our stability as a country.

Remember this when you are leisurely pushing your grocery cart down the well-stocked aisle full of shelves with multiple choices that will take less than 10 percent of your income.

All of this begins with two of my favorite words placed side by side, “production agriculture.”

Clayton Rye is a Farm News staff writer and farmer from Hanlontown. Reach him by e-mail at crye@wctatel.net.

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