Agriculture is an important force in the economic, social, and political fabric of America. Policy decisions for and about agriculture, from the Homestead Act that helped settle the West, to the development of our Land Grant college system, were essential building blocks of our society. Now, as America faces the information age and the technology revolution of the 21st century, policy makers must not forget the agricultural foundation that supports our place in the world. Moreover, since the United States has experienced terrorist attacks and it continues to monitor and plan against terrorism in all its forms, there will be an unprecedented focus on the integrity and safety of our farm to table food supply chain. This will be a challenge for producers and policy makers alike.
Farming and ranching are the foundations of our $1 trillion food and fiber business and nearly $60 billion in annual exports. Agriculture is a major contributor in our country’s trade balance. This vast industry is not only essential to the economic health of rural America, it generates almost 16 percent of the total economic activity in the nation, as well as providing almost 18 percent of the country’s jobs. This economic mainstay is rooted in the land resources of the country. More than 900 million acres of agricultural land is in the care of farmers and ranchers and their families, accounting for 60 percent of land use in the lower 48 states. Not only is a sound agricultural sector critical to the health and prosperity of our nation, it is essential to the environmental health of the nation as well.
However, the business of producing food and fiber is undergoing unprecedented change. Economic, environmental, consumer, and technological forces beyond the control of individual farmers and ranchers drive this change. And as we have learned, so too does the necessary defense of our nation. Federal and state policy makers need to be aware of these forces to make prudent policy decisions that will help position American agriculture to benefit from the opportunities this change will bring about. To ensure the future viability of our nation’s production agriculture industry, it is clear that state and federal policy makers must work together.
NASDA’s Guiding Principles offer certain priorities for federal policy. Those priorities include important new roles for states, especially in the area of program and service delivery. These concepts are put forth as an attempt to best serve the needs of our agricultural producers in an increasingly competitive worldwide marketplace.