By John Salazar
Commissioner of Agriculture
Throughout the centuries, the American way of life has stood for freedom, honor, and integrity.
It’s no surprise that those are the same words I use to describe Colorado’s agricultural producers. It is through the hard work and dedication of our producers that we are able to provide safe, abundant, and affordable products for your family and dinner table.
Colorado Ag Day is March 16 and it’s a day to recognize and celebrate the abundance provided by agriculture. Besides the food it produces, Colorado’s farms and ranches add value to our lives in many ways.
Our environment benefits from agriculture. Modern technology allows producers to grow abundant food supplies on fewer acres than ever before. That means we can meet the food needs of a growing population without having to sacrifice wildlife habitat that otherwise would go under the plow.
Over 40 food commodities are grown on Colorado farms and ranches. From top quality beef, pork, and lamb to lettuce, potatoes, broccoli, onions and peaches, Colorado consumers increasingly treasure our agricultural bounty. Today’s consumer is greeted by a wealth of local products by their hometown producers that provide fresh food for our dinner table. In fact, over 75 percent of Colorado’s beautiful landscape produces some type of food product.
In this age of economic and political turmoil, Colorado agricultural producers also help provide spending choices for our family dollar that is unseen anywhere else in the world. We, as a nation, are fortunate to spend less than seven-percent of our disposable income for food. According to the US Department of Agriculture’s all-food index, in 2009 to 2010, we experienced the lowest level of food price inflation since the 1960’s with only a .3 percent increase in the price of foods consumed at home.
This comes at a time when consumers around the world are paying far greater percentages of their family dollar for the food on their table. While US consumers pay 6.9 percent of their income on food, Canada comes in at 9.1 percent, South Korea at 15.1 percent, the Philippines at 36.7 percent, and Pakistan sits at 45.5 percent! The American consumer is fortunate to have access to safe, abundant, affordable food and that is thanks to our farmers in the field and our ranchers who are caring for their livestock.
As we look to the future, a growing world population will continue to make increasing demands on our producers. The challenges of feeding a global community are staggering. In the next 50 years, agriculture will be called upon to produce more food than in the previous 10,000 years combined!
This means we must continue to develop new technologies in order to meet the growing demand for food worldwide at a time when land used for agricultural purposes continues to decrease. Abraham Lincoln, in his infinite wisdom, once said, “Every blade of grass is a study; and to produce two, where there was but one, is both a profit and a pleasure.” That profit and pleasure has now also become a necessity if we are to continue enjoying the abundance agriculture has provided to our lives.
So on this and every Ag Day, usually the first day of spring, give thanks for all the value that Colorado’s agricultural families bring to our state—not just great food, but over 108,000 jobs, open spaces, wildlife habitat, and the examples they set of hard work and pride in their business, their family and the next generation of agricultural producers.
Because agriculture provides freedom of choice, honor in a hard day’s work, and a level of integrity that comes with feeding families throughout our state and around the globe.
John Salazar is Colorado’s commissioner of agriculture, a sixth-generation farmer and rancher, served three terms representing Colorado’s 3rd Congressional District and was a member of the House Agriculture Committee.