By Roger Johnson, president, National Farmers Union
In just a few weeks our nation will celebrate the Thanksgiving holiday. While we enjoy the delicious food, we need to remember to thank family farmers and ranchers for the bounty they provide and support policies that will help them to continue to increase their productivity.
Certainly, the nation’s two million family farmers and ranchers provide the bounty that many Americans have come to consider a birthright. These farmers on average feed 155 people and support 24 million jobs in the United States. But world population is growing quickly and they will need to produce more, much more, in the future.
In fact, in order to feed the world’s rapidly growing population, farmers will have to raise more food in the next 50 years than has been raised in the last 10,000 years combined.
In this country, one of the biggest contributors to the success of the American food production system is the family farm, a proven model for stability and sustained productivity that can be emulated by the rest of the world. And since the family farm model represents 98 percent of all farming households worldwide, the key to feeding the global population is to provide a fair playing field and fair markets for family farmers and ranchers.
One of the greatest challenges we face today is to identify and train new and beginning farmers to replace those who will soon be retiring. The Beginning Farmer Institute is an example of how organizations here and abroad can identify, train and empower new farmers. This model can certainly be used by other organizations here in the U.S. and abroad to help meet our global challenge.