Information Age 2001 - present
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Downloadable Media: Information Age
In the 2000s the average total U.S. population was 287,600,000 with farmers making up 1.5% of the labor force. This equates to one farmer suppling food and fiber for 139 people. During this era agricultural exports ranged from 7% of total exports in 2000 to 10% of total exports in 2011. In 2016, $135.5 billion of agricultural products were exported to nations around the world.
The Information Age was an era of great technological and scientific advancement in the areas of bioengineering, farm equipment, and medicine. The cloning of the first piglets, the sequencing of plant genomes, and new genetically modified foods are just a few of the scientific advancements that took place during this era.
Several policies and laws were also introduced in the United States that impacted the agricultural industry. Policies on nutrition, trade, and farm aid were part of the changes that took place during this era spanning three presidential administrations including Presidents George W. Bush, Barrack H. Obama, and Donald J. Trump. These policies and laws impacted local, state, national, and international agricultural production, consumption, and trade.
How will the scientific and technological advancements of this era impact the agricultural industry into the future? What roles should scientific and technological advancements play in agricultural production? What role(s) should the government play in the agricultural industry? How will policy impact international trade in both positive and negative ways? Consider these and other questions as you explore, “Growing A Nation: Information Age.”
Americans pay the least amount of their disposable income on food each year. Disposable income is the remaining income after taxes and mandatory expenses. Other nations around the world spend much more, some as much as 57% of their disposable income. Regarding the United States, a significant amount of the 10% is spent on food eaten away from home.
Percentage of Disposable Income Spent on Food
*Disposable income is the remaining income after taxes and mandatory expenses.
US Statistics Only (58% - food eaten at home; 42% eaten away from home)
US Statistics Only (51% - food eaten at home; 49% eaten away from home)
US Statistics Only (51% - food eaten at home; 49% eaten away from home)
New Zealand: 15%
US Statistics Only (50% - food eaten at home; 50% eaten away from home)
US Statistics Only (50% - food eaten at home; 50% eaten away from home)
2013 - US Average spent on food per capita = $4,229; 2015 US Average spent on food per capita = $4,504; 2017 US Average spent on food per capita = $4,576
What general statement can be made about the percentage of income spent on food and the hemisphere in which the country is located?
"Americans Pay the Least for Food". Food and Farm Facts. American Farm Bureau Federation. 2009-2017.
What's On America's Table?
Average US food consumption for each person
Fats & Oils
Based on the information about popular types of foods consumed in the US, along with the cost comparison (above), what conclusions can you make about the data?
Why is food so much less expensive for those living in the US?
What story does the data tell us about what Americans eat?
"Americans Pay the Least for Food." Food and Farm Facts. American Farm Bureau Federation. 2009-2017.
Hungry Planet: What the World Eats
Peter Menzel, a California photographer, and writer Faith D'Aluisio traveled to 24 countries to interview and photograph families to discover what they ate, as well as the weekly cost of their food. Analyze the photos and the information provided in the link below (access the slideshow). Pay special attention to the types of food eaten, the number of people in each family, and the weekly grocery bill.
What similarities did you notice about the nations in the photographs? Differences?
If you had to spend a greater percentage of your money on food, what other things would you have to stop buying? How would your life be different?
Why do grocery bills differ so widely around the globe?
How does geography affect what people eat?
"Global Grocery Bags." Project Food, Land, and People. 2003.
In 2000, US agricultural exports totaled $50.7 billion/year or 7% of total exports. The United States sold more food and fiber to world markets than were imported, which created a positive agricultural trade balance.
In 2001, US agricultural exports totaled $52.7 billion/year or 8% of total exports.
In 2002, US agricultural exports totaled $53.3 billion/year or 8% of total exports.
In 2003, US agricultural exports totaled $56 billion/year or 9% of total exports.
In 2004, US agricultural exports totaled $62.4 billion/year or 9% of total exports.
In 2005, US agricultural exports totaled $62.5 billion/year or 8% of total exports.
In 2006, US agricultural exports totaled $68.6 billion/year or 8% of total exports.
In 2007, US agricultural exports totaled $82.2 billion/year or 8% of total exports.
In 2008, US agricultural exports totaled $114.9 billion/year or 10% of total exports.
In 2009, US agricultural exports totaled $96.3 billion/year or 10% of total exports.
In 2010, US agricultural exports totaled $108.6 billion/year or 10% of total exports.
In 2011, US agricultural exports totaled $136.4 billion. These exports were estimated to require 923,000 full time jobs, 637,000 of which were in the non-farm sector.
In 2012, the US exported $141.3 billion worth of agricultural products with 63% of commodities being sent to China, Canada, Mexico, Japan, and the European Union (comprised of 27 nations), which accounted for 63% of all exports. Approximately 36% of all US agricultural products by value included: 94 million tons of coarse grains, soybeans, and feed; 4 million tons of poultry meats; and 3 million tons of fresh fruit.
By 2014, farm exports were valued at $150.5 billion, with the majority of products being sent to China, Canada, Mexico, Japan, and the European Union (comprised of 28 nations), which totaled 61% of all exports. By value, approximately 36% of US agricultural products consisted of: 140.1 million tons of corn, grains, soybeans, and feed; 4.1 million tons of poultry meats; and 3.1 million tons of fresh fruit.
In 2015, agricultural exports totaled $133.1 billion. These exports required 1,067,000 full-time jobs with 751,000 in the non-farm sector.
In 2016, $135.5 billion worth of US agricultural products were exported to nations around the world. The majority of US imports were sent to China, Canada, Mexico, Japan, and the European Union (comprised of 28 countries), which accounted for 61% of all exports. Together, China and Canada account for 31% of all US agricultural exports. Approximately 25% of commodities by value were exported, and included: 148.5 million tons of corn, soybeans, and other grains; 3.6 million tons of poultry meats; and 3 million tons of fresh fruit.
From 2000-2009, the average annual value of agricultural exports totaled $71.6 billion/year or 4% of total exports.
From 2010-2017, the average annual value of agricultural exports totaled $140 billion/year.
What is one important idea you have learned from the data?
Why is this information relevant to our lives?
What questions does this information raise?
2016-2017 Agricultural Exports
|$16.2||Beef, Veal, Pork & Poultry|
Fresh & Processed Fruits & Vegetables
|$7.5||Feeds & Fodder|
According to the Farm Bureau, "About 25 Percent of all U.S. agricultural products by value are exported yearly, including:
- 148.5 million tons of corn, coarse grains, distillers grains, soybeans, soybean meal and feed & fodder
- 3.6 million tons of poultry meats
- 3.0 million tons of fresh fruit."
The Farm Bureau explains, "In 2016, $135.5 Billion worth of American agricultural products were exported around the globe. The top five customers (in italics) accounted for 61 percent of all exports. China and Canada are the United State's largest trading partners. Together, they account for 31 percent of all U. S. agricultural exports."
|Beef & Veal||18%|
Looking at the amount of exports that the United States sends to other countries, what role do you think that the U.S. plays in feeding the world?
How might these numbers impact the planting, harvesting, transporting, and consuming of agricultural products in both the U.S. and around the world?
American Farm Bureau Foundation for Agriculture. (2017). Trade & economics. Food and Farm Facts, p. 14-15.
The cost of transporting, processing, and packaging foods is significant for farmers as they work to get our food from farm to table. Farmers receive only 2-3% on bread and cereal products, and as much as 35% for various fresh foods. Review the information below, based on every retail dollar spent, and compare the expenses and earnings of farmers in the Information Age.
Where Does Your Food Dollar Go?
Year Off-Farm Expenses Farm Income How Many People One Farmer Feeds
1980 $0.69 $0.31 76
2009 $0.81 $0.19 155
2011 $0.84 $0.16 154
2013 $0.84 $0.16 154
2015 $0.83 $0.17 168
2017 $0.84 $0.16 165
Off-Farm Expenses include packaging, transportation, energy, etc. Farm Income refers to what farmers and ranchers actually receive from every retail dollar.
What underlying factors contributed to the data?
What questions does this information raise about economic issues and innovations in agriculture?
What predictions do have about the future?
"Where Does Your Food Dollar Go?" Food and Farm Facts. American Farm Bureau Federation. 2009-2017.
In the 2000s the average total U.S. population: 287,600,000; farm population; farmers 1.5% of labor force; number of farms 2,128,982; average acres 441; irrigated acres: 55,311,236 (2002); farm population: 3,281,534; number of farms 2,204,792; average acres: 418; irrigated acres 56,599,305 (2007). One farmer supplies food and filber for 139 people.
In the 2010s the average total U.S. population: 314,000,000; farm population: 3,180,074; farmers make up about 1% of labor force; number of farms: 2,109,303; average acres: 434; irrigated acres 55,822,231 (2012). One farmer supplies food and filber for 155 people.
In 2020 it is estimated that the U.S. population will be 398,000,000, the world population 7.6 billion. In 2017 one U.S. farmer supplies food and fiber for 165 people. The world population is predicted to reach nearly 10 billion by 2050. What can farmers and the U.S. agricultural industry (scientist, engineers, agribusiness people) do to meet the demands for food and fiber sustainably in this unprecedented population?
US Secretary of Agriculture, Dan Glickman, declared an agricultural disaster due to drought in Alabama, Florida, Nebraska, and New Mexico, making low-interest emergency relief loans available to farmers and ranchers. The purpose of the loan was to help ranchers gain water access for grazing animals, allow use of Conservation Reserve Program (CRP) land for emergency grazing, and help farmers cover losses due to the serious drought conditions. Scientists have concluded that this was the most chronic and severe drought in 800 years, and caused lasting impact on crops, forests, and the water availability in the western part of the US.
US Drought Monitor
The US Drought Monitor map is a weekly report of climatic, hydrologic, and soil conditions, along with impacts and conditions shared by over 350 contributors.
Access the US Drought Monitor and review the map.
Where are the drought and rainfall locations this week?
Click on the area of the map in which you live. Analyze and summarize evidence of drought in your state.
What "story" does the map tell about the severity of drought? What are the consequences?
How is drought affecting you?
The Biomass Research and Development Act of 2000 provided government grants for the research and development of biofuels and biobased products from crops and feedstock (renewable, biological materials that can be used for fuel).
Biomass is organic plant and animal waste that can be used as a source of energy. Taking a relatively small amount of time to produce, rather than million of years for the formation of fossil fuels, biomass is a renewable energy source, the only renewable energy source that can be turned in liquid biofuels, such as ethanol and biodiesel fuel.
To learn more about biomass and its uses, use the National Geographic link below.
What's one important idea you have learned from this data?
What questions does this information raise?
Farmers' markets, a common area or facility where farmers and growers are able to sell fresh vegetables, fruits, and other commodities directly to consumers, began trending in the 1990s, but surged in 2000. These markets allowed small farmers to connect directly with the public and increase their profit margin or supplement their income, along with providing consumers the opportunity to purchase fresh high-quality produce, not always readily available in supermarkets.
Roots of Farmers' Markets
The history of farmers' markets dates back to 1730 in Lancaster, PA, when city planners designed Lancaster Central Market, a 120-square-foot plot in the middle of the city. Farmers' Markets were popular among people from all walks of life. For example, in July 1806, President Thomas Jefferson traveled to a local Georgetown market for fresh vegetables, beef, and eggs. He was used to fresh produce that came from his Monticello farm in Charlottesville, VA, so a farmers' market was valuable to him. He even documented vegetables that were sold in the Washington, DC area, a total of thirty-seven different varieties.
In the first decades of the 20th Century, local markets were commonplace. However, with the advancements in transportation, refrigeration, and improved roads, supermarkets were built, which soon replaced the popularity of farmers' markets. In the 1970s, a green revolution took root once again, particularly in New York City and California, which led to the concern of where food came from and how it was grown, along with a desire to protect farmland and improve conservation practices.
In the early to mid-1900s, why might people prefer to shop at supermarkets, rather than farmers' markets? Explain.
What is the value of having local farmers' markets, rather than a grocery-store only option of purchasing food?
Jablow, Valerie and Horne, Bill. "Farmers' Markets." Smithsonian Magazine. June 1999. Web. 31 July 2018. Neal, Arthur. "Meet Me at the Market." USDA. 7 Aug. 2013. Web. 31 July 2018.
The Global Food Safety Initiative was introduced in May 2000 in response to several food safety scares across the globe. GSFI's mission is "Safe food for consumers, everywhere" and works to improve safe food practices on a global scale.
In the 1990s, the food industry experienced some major crisis in outbreaks of listeria (bacterium), mad cow disease (BSE), and dioxins (highly toxic pollutants). Without a consistent method of ensuring food safety on a global scale, The Consumer Goods Forum (GCF), an international trade group, decided to take action, which led to the creation of the Global Food Safety Initiative in May 2000. GFSI is a non-profit organization whose goal is "once certified, always recognized".
Is a global food safety network essential? Why or why not?
How have global food safety issues changed over time?
What might be some challenges faced by the GFSI in working with developing countries? Explain.
Golden Rice, a genetically-modified rice containing beta-carotene, was introduced by Peter Beyer and Ingo Potrykus in an attempt to eradicate Vitamin D deficiencies in low-income nations. Vitamin A is essential for good vision and healthy immune systems.
For more information on The Golden Rice Project, use the link below.
An international consortium announced the first DNA sequencing of a plant genome, the flowering mustard Arabidopsis thaliana. Research indicated that plants may be much more complex organisms that were once believed.
Exploring the First 50 Sequenced Plant Genomes
While the first plant to have its genome sequenced was a member of the mustard family in the year 2000, the rate of decoding plant genomes has been rapidly increasing since then. From the following link, read more about genome sequencing and the first 50 plant genomes that have been sequenced.
What is genome sequencing?
Based on the website, what plant genomes have been sequenced?
Why do genomes vary so much in size?
Should plant genomes be sequenced? Why or why not?
Fisher, Madeline. "Exploring the first 50 sequenced plant genomes." Crop Science Society of America. 2018. Web. 16 August 2018.
On March 5, 2000, five female cloned pigs were born at the PPL Therapeutics laboratory in Blacksburg, VA. Scientists and colleagues from the Edinburgh-based company created the pigs using cloned adult cells, similar to the technique they used to create Dolly, the sheep.
"World's First Cloned Pigs Born in Virginia." Environmental News Service. 14 March 2000.
Based on the Genetic Science Learning Center from the University of Utah, there are many reasons for cloning in animals and medicine.
Dolly the Sheep, the most well-known animal cloned from an adult cell, lived for only six years, half that of the life span of a normal sheep. Of thirteen cloned sheep, none, including those that have been from the same cell line as Dolly, experienced any long-term health effects from cloning.
Consider the information presented on the website below and answer the related questions.
What are the ways in which cloning might be useful?
How might cloning be used in medicine?
What questions does this information raise?
Everything But the Oink
Based on 2016 statistics, the US exported 2.31 million metric tons of pork products worldwide? Because of its low fat, the protein in pork is considered lean by USDA standards, and it provides potassium without high levels of sodium. Pigs not only provide meat, such as ham and bacon, they provide consumers with a wide range of products. See the list of by-products below:
- fatty acids and glycerin (chalk, crayons, industrial lubricant, anti-freeze, matches, plastics, cement, linoleum, putty, pharmeceuticals)
- gelatin (cosmetics, chewing gum)
- bones and bone meal (buttons, bone china, fertilizer, porcelain enamel, glass and water filters)
- organs (violin strings, pet food, insulin)
- hair (brushes, insulation, upholstery)
- blood (glue and adhesives, leather treating agents, fabric printing and dying)
Based on the list of pig by-products, which products do you use on a daily basis? Which parts of the pig do you use?
What is most surprising to you about the parts of the pig that are used for by-products?
What did you learn?
"Everything But the Oink." Illinois Agriculture in the Classroom. 2016. Poster.
Review the Pork Timeline to learn more about the history of pigs.
- 4900 BC - Pigs were domesticated in China.
- 1500 BC - Pigs were being raised in Europe.
- 1493 - Columbus took eight pigs on his voyage to Cuba.
- 1539 - Hernando de Soto, known as the "Father of the American Pork Industry", brought America's first thirteen pigs to Tampa Bay, Florida. By the time he died, thirteen years later, the herd grew to over 700.
- 1600 - Hernan Cortes introduced pigs to Mexico.
- 1607 - Sir Walter Raleigh brought sows (female pigs) to Jamestown Colony.
- 1660 - The pig population in Pennsylvania Colony was in the thousands. By the end of the 1600s, the typical farmer owned four to five pigs, providing him with salt pork, ham, and bacon.
- 1700s - Pioneers began heading west with pig-filled wooden crates that hung from the axles of their wagons.
- 1800s - Pigs were first commercially slaughtered in Cincinnati, Ohio, which became known as "Porkopolis".
- 1812 - "Uncle" Sam Wilson, a New York pork packer, shipped several hundred barrels of pork to US troops. Each barrel, stamped "US" on the docks, was said to have been provided by "Uncle Sam". His name became synonymous with the United States.
- 1850s - Between 40,000 to 70,000 pigs were herded along trails from Ohio to eastern markets. A herd of pigs could travel 5-8 miles per day and cover up to 700 miles.
- 1887 - The first refrigerated railroad car, cooled by ice and salt, was introduced by Swift & Company. Meat could now be shipped instead of live pigs.
- 1903 - Hog Cholera Serum was created to combat the disease which would kills pigs within fifteen days.
- 1930s - Pig insulin was first used to treat diabetes.
- 1971 - The first pig heart valve was used to replace a human heart valve.
- 1987 - The pork industry launched the "Pork - The Other White Meat" campaign.
What are the three most important events on the Pork Timeline. Why?
Why is the production of pork a significant part of US Agriculture?
"Pork Timeline." Illinois Agriculture in the Classroom. 2016. Poster.
Based on the growing popularity of organically-grown foods, the USDA revealed a new national organic standard for farmers and consumers. Although not an indication of nutritional value or food safety, the organic certification seal is a marketing tool that provides information to consumers that certain requirements have been met in the production of the food source.
What the Organic Label Means
Foods that are organically certified are grown and processed according to specific federal guidelines, which include quality of the soil, insect and weed control, animal raising practices, and additive use. Produce that is labeled organic comes from soil that has had no use of forbidden synthetic fertilizers or pesticides for a period of three years before harvesting. With regard to meat, an organic label would require that the animal be raised in a natural-type habitat, be fed organic foods, and be free from antibiotic or hormone additives. In labeling packaged foods, artificial colors, flavors, and preservatives are generally prohibited.
In your opinion, is organic labeling important for consumers? Why or why not?
McEvoy, Miles. "Organic 101: What the USDA Organic Label Means." USDA. 22 March 2012. Web. 31 July 2018.
Beginning in March 2001, an economic recession resulted from the Y2K scare, collapse of the dot-com bubble, failing businesses, and the September 11th attacks. In direct response to the 9/11 attack, the New York Stock Exchange closed for four days, the first time since the Great Depression. While the recession technically ended in November 2001, threats of war continued to affect global markets.
September 11, 2001
On September 11, 2001, terrorist hijackers flew airplanes into the World Trade Center's twin towers in New York City, NY, killing 2,606 people. The Pentagon was attacked, as well, leaving 125 Pentagon workers dead. Another plane destined for Washington, DC, was diverted by passengers who overpowered the hijackers, and crashed in a field in Shanksville, PA. A total of 2,996 people perished in the attacks, wounding an additional 6,000.
Financed by al-Qaeda leader, Osama bin Laden, the terrorists retaliated due to US support for Israel, continued presence in the Middle East, and involvement in the Persian Gulf War. View the History Channel video clip on 9/11 and read through the information provided on the following website.
What happened during the 9/11 attacks? Provide details.
How did the events on 9/11 impact US involvement in the Middle East?
In your opinion, what impacts did the 9/11 attacks have on the US? Social? Psychological? Economic? Other?
The Y2K scare was a phenomenon that had people in fear that on December 31, 1999, computers would shut down, which led to the spending of millions of dollars by government and private sectors to prevent the problem. Prior to the year 2000, computer programmers had used a two-digit code to represent the year, rather than the standard four-digits. People were concerned that once a computer hit the year "00", it would fail. Transport systems, particularly the airlines, were concerned that flight times would be inaccurate. Banking systems, which heavily rely on computer software, worried that the calculation of daily interest rates might fail. This caused a decline in stock prices for banks. Government institutions, hospitals, and other businesses were impacted, as well.
The solution was to create new software programs that included a four-digit code to represent each year, along with amending the algorithm that was used to calculate leap years.
View the National Geographic video clip on Y2K.
How did the Y2K scare affect the society? Were those fears justified?
What questions does the Y2K scare raise?
What is one important idea that you have learned?
Chepkemoi, Joyce. "What Was the Y2K Scare?" World Atlas. 1 August 2017. Web. 9 August 2018.
On December 11, 2001, China became the 143rd member of the World Trade Organization (WTO) after lengthy negotiations that required vast changes to their economic structure, such as the elimination of various tariffs and opening agricultural trade. The WTO establishes rules for global trade and promotes effective practices for a market economy.
What is the WTO?
The World Trade Organization (WTO), created in 1995, is the only international organization that governs the rules of trade. It grew from the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade (GATT), which began after WWII in 1948. The WTO is responsible for solving trade disputes between nations and help trade move as smoothly as possible. Principles of the WTO include lowering trade barriers, such as bans and tariffs, discouraging unfair practices, help developing nations transition to market economies, work to protecting the environment, and not discriminate between trading partners or various products.
What is the purpose and value of the WTO?
How many nations are members of the WTO, and where is it located?
Why is the WTO relevant in our world today?
Why do you think China's membership in the WTO newsworthy?
The Farm Security and Rural Investment Act of 2002, signed by President George W. Bush, was passed to address water and other environmental issues. Programs included the Conservation Security Program, which created a reward system for eco-conscientious farmers, increases funding for conservation programs by 80% over 10 years.
For the full text of the Farm Security and Rural Investment Act of 2002 please see--https://www.congress.gov/bill/107th-congress/house-bill/2646/text
In 2002, Agricultural Research Service rangeland scientist David Ganskopp from Burns, Oregon, installed GPS collars on twelve cattle to track movements and better understand why they tend to graze in certain areas. Using satellite coordinates from over two dozen satellites, data was entered into a computer, which used Geographic Information Systems (GIS) to determine specific environments of the grazing cattle.
With continued advances in technology, farmers and ranchers are able to use accelerometers, devices which measure acceleration, on grazing animals. In addition, GPS collars have become easier to manufacture at lower costs, which makes monitoring extensive rangeland more effective. Ranchers now have the ability to more quickly rescue animals in need.
Elstein, David. "Tracking Movement of Cattle With Satellites." Agricultural Research Service. USDA. 12 August 2002. Web. 26 July 2018.
Wearable Technology for Livestock
Not only are high-tech collars now available for tracking livestock, there are many other options provided to farmers. The idea is that "precision farming", a technology-based approach to agriculture, should be more efficient, as well as save time and money. Based on 2016 figures, livestock tracking devices were a $1 billion industry, with estimates of increasing to $2.5 billion by the year 2025. While expense is certainly a major consideration, farmers need to decide whether the benefits of technology are worth the cost.
From the website below, review the five devices available to farmers to help them track and monitor their livestock.
What are the five devices for livestock tracking discussed in the article?
What are the benefits of each one?
If you were a farmer, which device would you think would be the best purchase? Why?
Is high-tech the best option? Why or why not?
Barth, Brian. "Luddites, Beware: These 5 Livestock Wearables Are the Future." Modern Farmer. 28 January 2016. Web. 16 August 2018.
Everything But the Moo
Based on 2016 statistics, did you know that each person consumes approximately 62 pounds of beef annually? Beef consumption is not just about eating steak and hamburger, but using their by-products (industrial, health, and household products), as well. The following is a partial list of beef by-products that consumers use on a daily basis:
- fats (hand soap, dish soap, insecticides, shaving cream, paint)
- bones (bandage strips, toothbrushes, dice, shampoo and conditioner, combs)
- hides (leather footwear, luggage, sports balls, ointment base)
- intestines (guitar strings, tennis racket strings)
Which parts of a steer, other than beef, do you use on a daily basis?
What surprised you about items from the by-products list? Explain.
"Everything But the Moo Beef By-Products." Illinois Agriculture in the Classroom. 2016. Poster.
The most popular brand of beef cattle in the United States is black Angus, well-known for their high-quality meat. Beef contains essential nutrients, including iron, protein, zinc, B-6, B-12, Omega-3s, selenium, and niacin. Beef has been an important part of the human diet for generations. See the brief timeline below for more information on cattle.
- 6500 BC - Cattle were first domesticated.
- 1493 - Columbus took cattle to Hispaniola on his second voyage to the New World.
- 1529 - The town council of Mexico City created a cattleman's association to prevent theft and preserve the monopoly they had on cattle. Mesta was the first known livestock association in the Americas.
- 1611 - The English were the first to bring large numbers of cattle to the US in the colony of Jamestown.
- 1865 - Union Stockyards, "The Yards", was the meat packing district in Chicago until 1971, processing more meat than any other place in the world.
- 1880 - Mechanical refrigeration began making a large impact on the beef and cattle industry.
- 1884 - The National Cattle Growers Association of America was formed, the first known attempt to form an organization for cattle producers.
- 1890 - The first federal Meat Inspection Act became effective, which provided for the inspection of salted pork and bacon used for exporting. The following year, a law was created that authorized inspection for sheep, cattle, and pigs that were used for interstate commerce.
- 1906 - The Meat Inspection Act, signed by President Theodore Roosevelt, ensured that livestock was slaughtered and processed under sanitary conditions.
- 1911 - The first motor truck delivery of livestock was in Indianapolis, Indiana.
- 1946 - The detachable "Gooseneck Trailer" was invented by Austin Talbert for transporting livestock more efficiently.
- 1973 - The first price freeze, imposed by President Richard Nixon, led to a "drought" in the market. When the freeze was lifted, there was then a "flood" of beef in the market. Exported grain to the Soviet Union caused an increase in costs to feed cattle, leaving a $200 or more loss per head of cattle. This was known as "The Wreck of 1973".
- 1979 - The Meat Import Act was passed, meaning that as US meat production increased, imports would decrease, and vice versa.
What are the three most important events on the Beef Timeline. Why?
Why is the production of beef a significant part of US Agriculture?
"Beef Timeline." Illinois Agriculture in the Classroom. 2016. Poster.
Researchers at the USDA discovered a peanut variety that lacks a major allergen, in hopes that a hypoallergenic peanut can be created. Peanut allergies, which can be fatal, affect over 1.5 million Americans.
History of the Peanut and Peanut Butter
Have you ever wondered where the peanut came from? Peanuts originated in South America, Peru or Brazil, based on the findings of artifacts in the shape of peanuts and decorated with the peanut design. Additionally, the Incans placed peanuts in tombs with mummies to help them in the afterlife, and tribes in Brazil ground peanuts with maize to create a drink for celebrations.
It wasn't until the 1800s that peanuts were grown commerically in the US. They were first grown in Virginia and mainly used as food for livestock or the poor. Peanuts became more popular after the Civil War when northern troops took them home. In the late 1800s, PT Barnum's circus sold hot peanuts, making the high protein food grow in popularity. The 1900s growth in industrialization made the peanut easier to plant and harvest. With Dr. George Washington Carver's suggestions for growing peanuts, the peanut became a significant agricultural crop in the South.
In 1904, peanut butter was first introduced at the World's Fair in St. Louis, MO, by Dr. John Harvey Kellogg, the inventor of corn flakes as a breakfast cereal. Peanut butter became popular during WWI and WWII as an important protein food for American troops.
After reading the information in the link, explain the history of the peanut.
What is the value of this information?
Why is this important or relevant today?
Thus far, no one knows what causes a food allergy, although genetic and environmental factors seem to be contributors. Statistically, one of 90 people in the US suffer from peanut allergies, between 0.6-1.0%, with an estimate of 20% of peanut allergies that can be outgrown. Peanut allergies are less common in Asia and Africa, where peanuts are staple foods.
Theories to the cause of peanut sensitivities are Vitamin D deficiencies, increased sun exposure, and the use of antacid medications. Other theories rely on the "Hygiene Hypothesis", which states that immunizations and a more sanitary environment creates weaker immune systems, causing increased risks of allergies.
In an attempt to combat peanut allergies, researchers have studied the use of a probiotic made of soybeans and lactic acid bacteria, which has reduced the severity and incidence of anaphylaxis (a severe, life-threatening reaction to an antigen). Oral immuno-therapy (OIT), where peanut protein has been administered in small quantities over time to desensitize the individual, has shown promise. Alternatives, such as the discovery of the new peanut, are continually being studied and reviewed.
Why is the discovery of a new peanut significant? Explain.
What questions does this information raise?
"Nut Allergy." The Peanut Institute. 2013. Web. 12 July 2018.
On June 30, 2004, President George W Bush signed the Child Nutrition and WIC Reauthorization Act, which amended the National School Lunch Act to encourage improved access to local foods in schools.
The WIC Program
The Women, Infants, and Children (WIC) Program was initially created as a pilot program in 1972 to provide food, education on nutrition, and access to health services for low-income women, infants, and children up to the age of five. The federal program became permanent in 1974 and is operated by the Food and Nutrition Service of the USDA, emphasizing its role as a nutrition program.
Congress allocates a specific amount funds each year for WIC, making it a grant, rather than entitlement, program. Based on 2015 statistics, WIC is operated through all 50 state health departments, 34 Indian Tribal Organizations, as well as Washington, DC, and 5 US territories (Puerto Rico, Guam, American Samoa, the Virgin Islands, and Northern Mariana).
In 1974, 88,000 people received WIC benefits. In 1980, 1.9 million; in 1985, 3.1 million; in 1990, 4.5 million; in 2000, 7.2 million; and by 2016, 7.7 milion. Children have always been the largest group to receve WIC benefits. In 2017, of the 7.3 million people who participated in the program, 3.76 million were children, 1.79 million were infants, and 1.74 million were women.
What is the purpose of the WIC program, and who does it specifically benefit?
What story does the data tell you?
What underlying factors contributed to the data?
Why is this relevant?
Food and Nutrition Services. "Women, Infants and Children (WIC)". USDA. 14 February 2018. Web. 12 July 2018.
Purchased by Google in 2004, Google Earth advanced a booming public interest in geospacial technology. Initially created as Keyhole Earth Viewer by Keyhole, Inc., founded in 2001, the program was designed to aid in urban planning, defense, and intelligence. However, Google changed its focus to exploration, providing 3D imagery of cities and landscapes around the world, as well as 3D models of planets within the solar system. In addition, humanitarian organizations use Google Earth to help tell visual stories regarding natural disasters, water needs, and environmental calamities.
Garfield, Leanna. "The CIA's Earth Viewer was basically the original Google Earth." Business Insider. 30 December 2015. Web. 27 July 2018.
Explore Google Earth
Google Earth is an excellent tool for studying geography and land use, exploring climate, cities, landscapes, and buildings. Take some time to explore Google Earth and learn more about our world, using the link below.
Who do you think would benefit from using Google Earth? Why?
How would Google Earth be helpful on the farm?
What did you specifically explore on Google Earth, and what did you learn?
Eating healthy and maintaining a sense of well-being has been a major focus in the new millenium. In 2005, McDonald's announced that it would begin displaying nutrition facts on most of their fast-food menu items, including calories and fat content. By 2012, the company began displaying calorie counts on display boards in their restaurants and and drive-thrus. Not only are consumers now interested in nutrion labeling on foods purchased in grocery stores, they demand to know what is in all types of food they are eating. This push has led to the development of various strategic initiatives to improve proper health and nutrition.
Fast Food Nation
The movie 'Fast Food Nation', an examination of health risks in the fast-food industry, including social and environmental issues, opened in U.S. theatres. The book, Fast Food Nation: The Dark Side of an All-American Meal, written by Eric Schlosser, was published in 2001, after studying the fast-food industry for nearly three years.
Wikipedia. "Fast Food Nation". Wikimedia Foundation, Inc., 2018.
USDA Programs and Policies
In 2008, The Food, Conservation, and Energy Act changed Food Stamps to SNAP (Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program), whose goal was to put healthy food within reach of those without adequate means. SNAP, the largest food safety net in the US, reflected a national focus on nutrition.
In 2005, Agricultural Research Service (ARS) began demonstrating how strategic use of irrigation water can reduce water use and boost its quality. In the seventeen neighboring states in the West, approximately 75% of the value of various crops are grown on 25% of irrigated land. Improved technologies allow farmers to produce greater yields and adapt to the effects of climate change. For example, in California, almond growers have discovered that the drip method has reduced the amount of water needed to grow a pound of almonds by 33%, based on their experiences. Water-saving measures and strategies are now being used on millions of acres across the American West, where irrigation can consume up to 90 percent of available water resources.
Frisvold, George, and Bai, Ting. "Irrigation Technology Choice as Adaptation to Climate Change in the Western United States." Wiley Online Library. 31 August 2016. Web. 26 July 2018.
Irrigation Water Use
Types of water used for irrigation are classified into groundwater and surface water. Groundwater is located underground in cracks in the soil, sand, and rock, and comes from rain, melting snow, and ice, stored in aquifers, wells, and streams. Surface water is water that collects on the surface of the ground, found in lakes, streams, and rivers.
Based on 2015 statistics, surface water was the chief source of irrigation in the West, except for the states of Texas, California, Nebraska, Oklahoma, Kansas, and South Dakota, where groundwater was mostly used.
Study the Irrigation 2015 Map on the following website: Irrigation Water Use
Which states irrigate the most? Why?
Which states irrigate the least? Why?
Explain the data.
Why is this data important and how does it relate to our lives?
The Agricultural Research Service (ARS) developed an edible coating to keep sliced apples fresh, and is now being used by restaurants, stores, and the School Lunch Program. Patented in 1999, the sulfite-free coating consists of vitamins and minerals, such as calcium and vitamin C, while preserving the fruit's color, texture, and flavor for up to 28 days. The serving-size packaging may appeal to consumers and help combat obesity.
The Energy Policy Act, signed by President George W. Bush increased biofuels research funding and provided incentives for the use of clean, renewable energy. General provisions included the authorization of clean coal initiatives, tax credits for producing alternative energy, loans for innovative technologies that avoided the use of greenhouse gases, and added ocean energy sources, such as wave and tidal power. The Congressional Budget Office estimated costs of the bill at $2.2 billion over the period of 2006-2010.
"Energy Policy Act of 2005." Wikimedia Foundation, Inc. 14 May 2018. Web. 27 July 2018.
In July 2006, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration approved an ARS-developed cotton wound dressing for use by patient with chronic wounds. This discovery will benefit cotton farmers by increasing the volume of U.S. value-added cotton products. Created by J. Vincent Edwards, a research chemist in New Orleans, the cotton bandage has the capacity to collect excess proteases, destructive enzymes in chronic wounds. Chronic open wounds affect nearly five million Americans, particularly those who are bed-ridden or diabetic with circulation issues. The cost of treating these wounds is estimated at more than $7 billion, and is projected to exceed that number as much as 10% annually, due to a growing aging population.
Peabody, Erin K. "The Touch, the Feeland Now, the Healof Cotton." AgResearch Magazine. USDA. 2008. Web. 26 July 2018.
The Story of Cotton
Cotton is the most widely used fiber in the world. Encased in a protective covering, or boll, with an average of 27-45 seeds, cotton is classified as a fruit. Its fine, hair-like fibers are single cells, the longest cells of a plant (domestically-grown cotton). In today's world, individual fibers are twisted around each other with the aid of technology in order to create thread for cloth.
Explore the following website to better understand the history and significance of cotton.
Describe three major events in the history of cotton. In your opinion, which is most significant event, and why?
Why is cotton an important crop in the US?
Explain the process of cotton seed to product.
How has industrialization changed the use of cotton?
Yes, cotton comes from a plant, but what else do you know about this cash crop? What do the fibers look like under a microscope? Did you know that your jeans have genes? Find out more by exploring the following website.
Describe the cotton seed and fibers from the microscopic photographs found on the website.
How can cotton plants make fibers out of thin air?
Why do cotton plants have different fiber colors?
What is one important idea you have learned about cotton? Why is it relevant?
Approximately one million honeybee colonies in the U.S. died during 2007, a total of 35.8%, due to several deadly viruses (otherwise known as Colony Collapse Disorder). However, reasons other than viruses are compromised immune systems, possibly from pesticide use and climate change.
Gay, Nick, (Ed.) "A Survey of Honey Bee Colony Losses in the U.S., Fall 2007 to Spring 2008." National Center for Biotechnology Information. 2008. Web. 26 July 2018.
The Buzz About Bees
Honeybees are essential to agriculture. Crops such as apples, berries, and almonds, as well as three-fourths of all flowering plants, require pollination in order to be productive. It is estimated that one-third of our food comes from honeybee pollination. In addition, honeybees in the US are worth approximately $15 billion annually, and are responsible for 80% of the bee pollination.
Learn more in this Ted Talk: "Why We Need Bees"
Why do we need bees?
What is the value of this information about bees?
According to Dr. Dennis vanEngelsdorp, what can we do to make a difference?
What is Colony Collapse Disorder?
Colony Collapse Disorder was first reported during the winter of 2006-2007 when beekeepers began seeing high losses in their adult honeybee colonies. The bees would leave the hives, almost all at the same time. The queen was often discovered in the hives with the immature bees, and sufficient food supplies, but without many attending bees. Read about the causes and effects of the Colony Collapse Disorder in the following link.
What is colony collapse disorder?
Why it is happening?
What is being done to eradicate the problem?
World food prices increased dramatically in 2007 and early 2008, creating a global crisis. Many nations experienced food riots and political instability, threatening governments and social unrest throughout Asia, Africa, the Middle East, Latin America, and the Caribbean. The rise in food staples, such as corn, rice, soybeans, and wheat was devastating to poor and developing nations worldwide.
Economic and Social Affairs."Chapter IV: The Global Food Crises." United Nations. 2011. Web. 26 July 2018.
An Analysis of the Global Food Crisis
In a study conducted by the International Food Policy Research Institute in 2010, major factors of the global food crisis of 2007-08 included: increased demand for biofuels, which drove up the price of corn and soybeans; higher oil prices; poor weather that decreased wheat production in Ukraine, Australia, and Argentina; bans on various exports and panic buying, especially for rice exports which experienced global price increases from $350 to $1,000; and the falling value of the US dollar.
When food prices increase, the poor are impacted the most, leaving them to spend the majority of their disposable income on staple grains, and less on fruits, vegetables, and non-food items, which has a significant impact on nutrition.
What were the major causes of the global food crisis of 2007-08?
How does the concept of supply and demand apply to a global food network?
How does a global food crisis impact nutrition for the poor? Explain.
"Factbox: 2008 food price crisis -- what caused it?" Reuters. 9 June 2011. Web. 31 July 2018.
In 2008, the US faced the worst financial disaster since the Great Depression. Beginning with high-priced real estate taking a downward spiral in 2007, the crisis spread through the US financial sector and infiltrated the global economy. According to the Dow Jones Industrial Average, the US lost 33.8% of its value, and by the end of the year, the entire globe was entrenched in an economic recession.
Havemann, Joel. "The Financial Crisis of 2008." Encyclopaedia Britannica, Inc. 2009. Web. 26 July 2018.
Also known as the 2008 US Farm Bill, the Food, Conservation, and Energy Act was a $288 billion five-year agricultural policy that was a continuation of the 2002 Farm Bill. Passed by Congress on June 18, 2008 on an override of a presidential veto, the bill was an effort to continue government subsidies on agricultural production, research, and other issues. Specifically, the bill increased food assistance benefits (SNAP), increased funding for cellulosic ethanol (ethanol produced from cellulose, the stringy fiber of the plant, rather than the fruit or seeds), and support for pest and disease research, along with other agricultural problems.
The Farm Bill also included the Biomass Crop Assistance Program (BCAP), a strategy to decrease US dependence on foreign oil, reduce our carbon footprint, improve energy security in the US, and invest in the products made in rural areas of the nation.
"H.R. 2419 110th Congress: Food, Conservation, and Energy Act of 2008. www.GovTrack.us. 2007. Web. 26 July 2018.
During this era there were many changes to USDA policies and programs regarding farming and nutrition. Many different government organizations and agencies got involved in initiatives promoting sustainable practices in gardening, getting to know the farmers producing America’s food, and changes to everyday nutrition.
Changes in USDA Programs and Policies
In February 2009, Tom Vilsack, Secretary of Agriculture, launched The People's Garden initiative on the 200th birthday of Abraham Lincoln, who created the Department in 1862. He referred to it as "The People's Department." The purpose of The People's Garden was to help USDA employees create community gardens and encourage sustainable practices that benefit the environment. As of 2017, over 1,200 People's Gardens were in existence, providing educational resources and giving people the opportunity to grow their own food.
In the fall of 2009, Tom Vilsack announced the Know Your Farmer, Know Your Food Initiative to help individuals understand where their food comes from and how it gets to their plates. Using existing programs to support the development of local and regional food systems, the initiative's goal is to provide new income opportunities for local growers, increase sustainable agricultural practices, decrease the energy used to transport foods, and keep heathy options available to local consumers.
To view Secretary Vilsack's announcement, play this clip: Know Your Farmer, Know Your Food Launch.
In 2011, First Lady Michelle Obama, along with Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack and Surgeon General Dr. Regina Benjamin, unveiled the new food guide for a healthy diet known as MyPlate. Replacing the MyPyramid, the nutrition plate provides a visual display of an individual's plate sectioned into four parts: grains, protein, fruits, and vegetables, with half of the plate being fruits and veggies. A separate circle represents dairy products.
To read Michelle Obama's remarks on the MyPlate announcement, go to the following website: Remarks by the First Lady at Food Icon Announcement. To explore the MyPlate initiative please visit--MyPlate.gov
Compare the USDA's nutritional programs discussed in the text. Which is most significant in your life, and why?
Which is most significant to the US, and why?
What underlying factors contributed to the development of these programs?
President Barrack H. Obama was sworn into office as president of the United States on January 20, 2009. He served two terms ending on January 20, 2017 and was the United States’ 44th president. Legislation passed during President Obama’s time in office included several bills to impact agriculture in the United States.
Looking at the different legislation that was passed under President Obama, what policies and laws do you believe have the greatest impact on farmers, agricultural businesses, and consumers?
2009 American Recovery and Investment Act
Signed by President Barack Obama, the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009, also known as the "Recovery Act" or "The Stimulus", was a $787 billion economic stimulus package to help end the Recession of 2008. The main objective of the Act was to create emergency relief by saving and creating jobs. In addition, the package was to invest in infrastructure, education, health services, renewable energy, expansion of unemployment benefits, and federal tax incentives.
Congressional Research Service. "H.R. 1 (111th): American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009". www.govtrack.us. 2009. Web. 26 July 2018.
2011 FDA Food Safety Modernization Act
The Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA) was signed into law by President Barack Obama on January 4, 2011. The FSMA provided the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) new authorities to regulate the way food is produced (grown/harvested) and processed. The law granted the FDA the power to conduct mandatory recalls and issue guidance documents to reduce incidents of foodborne illnesses. This bill was is considered the first major piece of federal legislation addressing food safety since 1938.
2012 Federal Public Transportation Act
The Federal Public Transportation Act of 2012 (also called the Moving Ahead for Progress in the 21st Century Act) was passed and provided funding for increased ridership of buses, subways, commuter trains, and ferry boats. In addition, the Act focused on improved safety and established a State of Good Repair program to help public transportation systems address growing maintenance needs.
2012 Agriculture Reform, Food and Jobs Act
The Agriculture Reform, Food and Jobs Act of 2012 (S. 3240) represented the most significant reforms in agricultural policy in decades. The bill ended direct payments, streamlined and consolidates programs, and reduced the deficit by $23 billion. It also strengthened top priorities that continue to help farmers, ranchers, and small business owners grow our economy.
The Agricultural Act of 2014
The Agricultural Act of 2014 was signed into law by President Obama on February 7, 2014 and remains in effect until 2018, with some policies extending beyond that timeframe. According to the USDA, “The 2014 Farm Act makes major changes in commodity programs, adds new crop insurance options, streamlines conservation programs, modifies some provisions of the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), and expands programs for specialty crops, organic farmers, bioenergy, rural development, and beginning farmers and ranchers.”
Why do you think that the U.S. government creates a new farm bill every five years? Please explain your reasoning.
What do you think is the most important part of this new farm bill in relationship to agriculture in the U.S.? Please explain why you believe this area of change is important.
United States Department of Agriculture (USDA). (2018). Agricultural Act of 2014: Highlights and implications. Retrieved from https://www.ers.usda.gov/agricultural-act-of-2014-highlights-and-implications/
Approximately four billion pounds of chicken feathers are discarded from processing in the US each year. Agricultural Research Scientist Walter Schmidt from Beltsville, Maryland, has been working on how to use this byproduct for practical uses. Along with a research assistant, Masud Huda, from the Horticultural Research Institute in Washington, DC, Scmidt created a biodegradable flower pot made from chicken feathers. The pot, which will disintegrate during a period of one to five years, is manufactured without petroleum products and adds nitrogen into the soil.
Everything But the Cluck
Chicken is the number one protein consumed in the United States. Domesticated in Egypt around 3000 BC, more than 300 breeds of chickens exist today, but only a few are used for meat production. Wild turkeys, on the other hand, have roamed North and South America for millions of years, but the domesticated ones are those that primarily end up on our dinner tables. The $5.18 billion poultry industry created or supported as many as 18,776 jobs in 2016, providing an average annual salary of $68,604.
Poultry is not just used for meat, however. There are several by-products purchased and used frequently by consumers.
- Eggs are used in vaccines, plants, animal feed, and shampoo & conditioners.
- Feathers are used to stuff pillows, insulate clothing, and made into biodegradable plant pots.
How important do you think the poultry industry is for the United States?Why?
"Everything But the Cluck Poultry By-Products." Illinois Agriculture in the Classroom. 2016. Poster.
Review the timeline below to learn more about the history of chickens and turkeys.
- 3000 BC - Egyptians domesticated fowl that were laying eggs for eating.
- 1498 - According to William Rubel, the first turkeys arrived in Spain.
- 1500s - DNA researchers suggest that the first introduction of chickens came to Haiti and Florida, based on archaeological chicken bones.
- 1540s - Turkeys were established in England; by 1570s, they were raised throughout the nation.
- 1620 - The early English settlers of the 1620s brought domesticated turkeys with them, even though wild turkeys were readily available.
- 1849 - USDA launched a voluntary program for grading poultry products to assure consumers of high quality.
- 1953 - Swanson invented the TV dinner packaged with turkey and other goods, selling over 10 million meals by the end of the year.
- 1959 - Federal inspection of broilers (specially bred meat chicken) became mandatory.
- 1980 - McDonald's Chicken McNugget was introduced to the public.
- 1985 - Chicken consumption surpassed pork consumption.
- 1992 - Chicken consumption surpassed beef consumption in the US.
What are the three most important events on the Poultry Timeline. Why?
Why is the production of poultry a significant part of US Agriculture?
"Poultry Timeline." Illinois Agriculture in the Classroom. 2016. Poster.
During Obama’s presidency he put forth initiatives to assist rural Americans and support the strengthening of rural communities. In addition, he also sought to advance and boost support for biofuel production and consumption in America.
2010 Energy Security Plan
President Barack Obama announced initiatives to boost advanced biofuel production, which included five research centers, the installation of 10k fuel pumps with access to ethanol fuel blends, the increase of biofuel use in USDA's fleet, and the resumption of USDA's Biomass Crop Assistance program.
What are the different ways that boosting the production and consumption of biofuels in the United States might impact agricultural planting, consumption, and distribution across America?
Vilsack, Tom."Boosting Advanced Biofuel Production and Creating Jobs." USDA. 2010. Web. 26 July 2018.
2011 White House Rural Council
By Executive Order, President Barack Obama announced the creation of a White House Rural Council to help rural communities meet economic challenges. President Obama said, "Strong rural communities are key to a stronger America." Chaired by Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack, the Council coordinated programs across government to help strengthen rural communities. Specific goals included: the increase of broadband across America, improved access to quality healthcare, expansion of agricultural markets, the increased production of biofuels, and the improvement of job opportunities and training for people in rural areas.
Looking at the improvements that the White House Rural Council wanted to make to rural America, how might these changes impact the daily lives of rural Americans?
Office of the Press Secretary. "Obama Administration Establishes White House Rural Council to Strengthen Rural Communities." The White House. 9 June 2011. Web. 26 July 2018.
Food technologist, Charles Onwulata, developed an instant, fully cooked, nutritionally fortified, corn-soy blend emergency aid food with a one-year shelf life. Onwulata developed the new food using the same process used in creating Cheese Puffs, or any other puffed cereal or snack. The "puffs" are then crushed and processed to create a powder, which can be reconstituted with clean water and turned into a porridge. With a grant by the National Institute for the Severely Handicapped, twenty metric tons of this new food aid were able to be shipped to Haiti in 2011. (A 7.0 magnitude earthquake struck Haiti in 2010, devastating the island, affecting three million people, and leaving 1.6 million displaced and homeless.)
This effort has fed over 3,000 malnourished children and provided jobs for 128 disabled employees in the United States.
Bliss, Rosalie Marion. "Fully Cooked Emergency Aid Food." AgResearch Magazine. USDA. 2011. Web. 26 July 2018.
World Hunger Map
The goal of the World Food Programme (WFP), founded in 1961, is to deliver food assistance to those in emergency situations and ensure that everyone in the world has access to good nutrition, not just food. WFP estimates that 815 million people, one out of nine, still do not have enough to eat, even though they assist over 80 million people in 80 countries each year. Beyond that, one in three suffer from malnutrition today.
Analyze the world map found in the link below.
Which nations have a very low prevalence of malnutrition in their population? moderately low?
Which nations have a moderately high prevalence of malnutrition in their population?
Which nations have a high prevalence of malnutrition in their population? very high?
How would you explain these statistics?
What steps do you think can be made in order to end world hunger?
Technological advancements reach all the way back to the introduction of Jethro Tull’s seed drill in 1701, John Deere’s steel plow in 1837, and the first gasoline tractor built by John Froelich in 1892. Technological advancements have also played a key role in agriculture during the Information Age. These advancements have changed the ways that farmers go about their daily work from planting to harvesting and beyond.
2003--Farm equipment manufactures installed GPS systems in tractors
2012—The first self-driving, autonomous tractor was introduced at the Big Iron Farm Show in North Dakota
2013—Drone technology was widely used by farmers
New products introduced into agriculture also include more reliance on satellite imagery, greenness sensors, soil maps, and millions of weather data points.
How might the introduction of these new technologies change the ways that farmers approach planting and production?
What additional technology might exist that could change or impact that way farmers approach their daily routines?
National Agriculture in the Classroom. (n.d.) High-Tech Farming. Retrieved from https://www.agclassroom.org/teacher/matrix/lessonplan.cfm?lpid=656&grade=3&author_state=0&search_term_lp=technology Clark. E. (n.d.). Top 10 megatrends in agriculture. AgWEB
Technology in all of its forms has played a key role in agriculture for centuries. Recall the list of technologies from the “Seeds of Change” including the flail, sickle, cast-iron plow, and the cotton gin. Today, technology continues to play a key role in the industry of agriculture and the daily lives of farmers.
Reflecting on the technological advancements that you have learned about throughout “Growing a Nation,” which technological advancement(s) do you believe have made the biggest impact on agriculture in the United States?
2012 First Self-Driving Tractor
Created by Terry Anderson, founder of the Autonomous Tractor Corporation, the first self-driving, autonomous tractor was unveiled at the Big Iron Farm Show in West Fargo, North Dakota. Anderson came out of retirement to design an automated tractor after hearing complaints from farmers about labor issues, increased tractor prices, and design problems. The 25,000-pound tractor, named The Spirit, is able to travel in a straight line, turn corners, prepare the soil for planting, destroy weeds, and cut hay.
How might the invention of the self-driving tractor impact the following elements of the agricultural industry--
- Daily life of farmers,
- Supply/demand, and
- Work force?
2016 The Use of Drones in Agriculture is on the Rise
Unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs), better known as drones, are not a new technology, but they are playing a bigger role in agriculture than in the past due to less regulation and more investments in the technology. There are two major reasons why drones will lend themselves to agriculture.
The first is the growing population which is projected to be at 9 billion people by 2050, this means that agricultural consumption could increase nearly 70% within this same time frame. The second challenge that could be remedied by the use of drones is extreme weather events which create obstacles to productivity. Great strides in the integration of drones into agriculture could be made with the collaboration of stakeholders including governments, technology leaders, and industry.
The MIT Technology Review lists six uses for agricultural drones including:
- Soil and field analysis
- Crop spraying
- Crop monitoring
- Health assessment
Looking to the future, drones may be sent out in fleets or swarms in order to monitor tasks collectively and/or hybrid aerial-ground drones could collect data and perform other tasks. Several issues continue to impact the progress surrounding the use of drones, as well as, integration into all industries. Some of these on-going issues include safety of drone operations, privacy issues, and insurance-coverage questions. One of the biggest issues when looking to the use of drones in agriculture is the type and quality of data received from the technology. In order to address this, the industry is pushing for more sensors and cameras. Other considerations in the integration of drones into agriculture include using drones that require minimal training and highly automated technology.
Progress in the area of drones has been impacted by less regulation and more industry investment in the technology. Why might the regulations surrounding the use of drones in agriculture make such a big impact in their use in the field of agriculture? What role does industry “buy-in” and adoption play in the technological advancement of drones for use in the field of agriculture?
Looking at the list of six ways that drones could be used in the field of agriculture, how do you see this technology impacting each item on this list? Now that you have considered how the technology might be utilized, dig deeper into the list by visiting--Six Ways Drones Are Revolutionizing Agriculture and read more about the drones’ impact on agriculture. How does this list compare with the ideas that you generated? Can you think of additional uses for drones in the agricultural industry that have not been considered in the list? Why might the uses of drones be advantageous for the agricultural industry?
Mazur, M. (2016). Six ways drones are revolutionizing agriculture. MIT Technology Review. Retrieved from https://www.technologyreview.com/s/601935/six-ways-drones-are-revolutionizing-agriculture/
2018 Renewable Fuels
Renewable fuels are assisting many rural communities economically. Looking to the field of biofuels, Agricultural Research Services (ARS) in Lincoln, NE developed a new perennial switchgrass called ‘Liberty’ that thrives in the Upper Midwest and provides 530 gallons of bioethanol per acre as compared to 567 gallons per-acre from corn grain that has to be grown on higher quality food-cropping land. According to the ARS, “This new ARS-developed switchgrass can grow on marginal lands where other crops can’t necessarily grow. It is also high yielding, meaning that it will generate more revenue for both farmers and the bio-refineries they supply. Hundreds of thousands of gallons of fuels are already derived each year from switchgrass, and the new variety should enhance the crop’s economic value.”
What are the economic and environmental benefits to the new Liberty switchgrass?
How does this new crop play a role in sustainability?
Agricultural Research Services. (2018). Making the unusable profitable. Scientific Discoveries: The Impact of Agricultural Research Services (ARS) Research-Fiscal Year 2017, p. 15.
According to the American Farm Bureau, “GPS-based mapping, auto-steer guidance systems and variable-rate technology for applying crop inputs such as pesticides and fertilizer are used by farmers to increase yields, lower costs and reduce chemical use, which benefits the environment. Technology also helps farmers identify precisely where (and how many) seeds to plant.”
|40%||GPS-based yield mapping|
|30%||GPS soil maps|
|28%-34%||Variable-rate input technology|
What are the positives and negatives to the adoption the technology that farmers are integrating into their daily work? Do the positives outweigh the negatives or do the negatives outweigh the positives? Please explain your rationale.
American Farm Bureau. (2017). Production. Food and Farm Facts, p. 28.
Researchers at the Plum Island Animal Disease Center in Orient Point, NY, developed a safer vaccine to help combat Foot-and-Mouth Disease (FMD) in animals. Elizabeth Rieder, a microbiologist, and her colleagues used a DNA sequence that altered the FMD virus so they could study how it grows and interacts with host animals. Instead of using a virulent virus, the research team discovered how to create a weakened virus that does not cause disease, which is much safer than the traditional vaccine methods. The new vaccine may also be distinguished from other viruses that cause outbreaks.
Avant, Sandra. "Novel Method Makes FMD Vaccine Production Safer." USDA. 24 October 2013. Web. 26 July 2018.
Is FMD a Human Disease?
There is often much confusion about Foot and Mouth Disease (FMD), also known as Hoof-and-Mouth Disease, and Hand, Foot, and Mouth Disease (HFMD). FMD affects animals, such as pigs, cattle, and sheep, and Hand, Foot, and Mouth Disease affects humans. The diseases are not related, and they come from different viruses. Read more about Hand, Foot, and Mouth Disease from the CDC website.
What are the effects of Hand, Foot, and Mouth Disease in humans?
Compare and contrast Foot and Mouth Disease with Hand, Foot, and Mouth Disease. Explain differences and similarities.
How can Hand, Foot, and Mouth Disease be prevented?
About Foot and Mouth Disease
Foot-and-Mouth Disease is a highly contagious disease that occurs in wild and domestic animals, particularly those with cloven hooves. There are seven distinct types of the virus, with over sixty subtypes. The disease causes lesions, fluid-filled blisters, between the toes, heels, lips, tongue, and roof of the mouth. Lesions on the hooves, or feet, can prevent animals from walking, and those in the mouth can keep animals from eating or drinking.
For additional information about the disease, review the information on the following website.
Explain the history of foot-and-mouth disease.
What are possible outcomes or consequences of a foot-and-mouth disease outbreak?
How can the disease be controlled?
During this era, new genetically modified organisms (GMOs) including apples and potatoes were introduced in the United States. According to the American Farm Bureau, in 2016, "Globally, 18 million farmers grow biotech crops; 90 percent of them on small, resource-poor farms in developing countries."
What are the impacts, both the positives and negatives, of GMO products surrounding areas of agricultural production, distribution, and consumption?
American Farm Bureau. Timeline. Food and Farm Facts, p. 33.
2016 First GMO Potato New
Approved in 2014, the first GMO potates became available commercially for farmers to grow. These potatoes are non-browning, have reduced bruising and black spot, are blight resistant, and contain low acrylamide levels. Late blight continues to be a major problem for potato growers around the world, particularly in wet climates, and was responsible for the potato famine in Ireland in the mid-1840s.
2017 First GMO Apple
The first GMO apple, named the "Arctic Apple" became commercially available in 2017. This non-browning apple produces no polyphenol oxidase (PPO), a plant enzyme that creates a chemical reaction that browns the fruit when cut, bruised, or bitten. A modified Golden Delicious apple, the Arctic Apple was genetically engineered by Okanagan Specialty Fruits, from British Columbia, Canada, through a process called RNA Interference, or gene slicing. By adding an extra strand of RNA, the gene is basically shut down, preventing the browning process.
To see current GMO crops that are currently available, use the link below.
Gerlock, Grant. "Why The Arctic Apple Means You May Be Seeing More GMOs At The Store." NPR. 1 February 2017. Web. 27 July 2018.
Are They Safe? The On-Going Debate Surrounding Genetically Modified Foods
There is an on-going debate around the world about the safety of genetically modified food that has been going on for decades. Several pros and cons of this debate can be found within Scientific American website article The Truth about Genetically Modified Food, written by David H. Freedman, published on September 1, 2013. This article lays out both the pros and cons of the debate as well as things to think about moving forward. Issues included in the article surround production, distribution, and consumption of genetically modified food.
According to Freedman’s article what are some of the positive impacts of genetically modified foods? What are some of the negative issues surrounding genetically modified foods?
After reading through The Truth about Genetically Modified Food what do you believe to be the benefits and the consequences of genetically modified food?
Reflecting on the different perspectives of Freedman’s article, if you were a farmer would you opt to plant genetically modified seeds, or would you choose to plant seeds that have not been genetically modified? Please give a brief explanation of your reasoning for this decision.
Freedman, D. H. (2013). The truth about genetically modified food. Scientific American. Retrieved from https://www.scientificamerican.com/article/the-truth-about-genetically-modified-food/
The National Bioengineered Food Disclosure Standard
On July 29, 2016 President Trump signed into law the National Bioengineered Food Disclosure Standard (Public Law No. 114-216). This law establishes a national law that food or ingredients that have been “bioengineered” must be disclosed. The result of this law means that the USDA will create requirements for human foods that have been derived from biotechnology.
How will the labeling of bioengineered food impact the production and consumption of these foods?
What must one take into consideration when choosing to plant bioengineered crops?
What must one take into consideration when choosing to consume bioengineered food?
U.S. Food & Drug Administration (FDA). (2018). Labeling of foods derived from genetically engineered plants. Retrieved from https://www.fda.gov/food/ingredientspackaginglabeling/geplants/ ucm346858.htm
President Donald J. Trump was sworn into office on January 20, 2017 as the 45th president of the United States. Legislation and policies passed during President Trumps time in office included an updated farm bill and renegotiating several international trade deals.
Looking at the different legislation and policies that was put into effect under President Trump, what policies and laws do you believe have the greatest impact on farmers, agricultural businesses, trade, and consumers?
The Agricultural Improvement Act of 2018
The Agricultural Improvement Act of 2018 was a bipartisan bill singed into law by President Trump on December 20, 2018. According to the Republican Policy Committee, “H.R. 2 amends and extends major programs for income support, food and nutrition, land conservation, trade promotion, rural development, research, forestry, horticulture, and other miscellaneous programs administered by the Department of Agriculture (USDA) for five years through 2023. The bill is budget neutral and $111 billion below baseline funding.”
After exploring the summary of H.R. 2 (A Summary of H.R. 2), what do you think is the most important components of this new farm bill? Who is most impacted by this law and in what ways?
Why do you think that the United States government makes it a priority to update the farm bill every five years?
Republican Policy Committee. (2019). H.R. 2(115th): Agriculture Improvement act of 2018. Retrieved from https://www.govtrack.us/congress/bills/115/hr2
2017-2019 Trade and Tariffs
In 2017, The United States traded $140 billion worth of goods with China the majority of those being agricultural goods including farm and ranch products. Exports to China in 2017 were $19.6 billion resulting in China being the second-largest export market for U.S. farmers and ranchers. In retaliation for tariffs imposed on aluminum and steel in September of 2018, China has imposed large tariffs on 90% of U.S. agricultural exports. These retaliatory tariffs will result in China moving from the second-largest trading partner in 2017 to the fifth-largest trading partner in 2019.
In addition to China, other countries have imposed retaliatory tariffs on the United States including the European Union, Canada, and Mexico. Tariffs on Mexico, Canada, and China have resulted in a $12 billion USDA federal assistance program resembling Depression Era policy. This federal assistance gives farmers in need direct payment assistance. The government will buy goods from farmers including fruit, nuts, and rice to be distributed at food pantries. One major impact of the tariffs is that the USDA is forecasting a 12-year low in farmer income.
Who are the stakeholders that will be most impacted by the tariffs imposed on the U.S.’s international trading partners? How will these stakeholders be impacted?
How will President Trumps policies and tariffs impact American agricultural trade in the short term? How will these policies impact American Agriculture in the long term?
American Farm Bureau Federation. (2018). Farm Bureau details trade, tariff impacts on agriculture. Honig, E. (Writer). (2018). Trump attempts to blunt tariff impact on U.S. farmers. [Morning Edition]. National Public Radio.
2018 United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement (USMCA)
In 2018, President Trump renegotiated and reconceptualized the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) that first took effect on January 1, 1994. This new agreement with Canada and Mexico is known as the United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement (USMCA). This new trade agreement will take effect in 2020 and will be reviewed by all parties every six years. To learn more about USMCA please watch this short video explaining the six major changes found in the USMCA—Six Big Changes NAFTA’s replacement, the USMCA, makes.
For more information on USMCA please see the various fact sheets found through the Office of the United Staes Trade Representative--United States-Mexico-Canda Agreement
According to the video, how will the agricultural industry be impacted by USMCA? Are these changes positive or negative for the agricultural industry? In your response please explain why you think these changes are positive or negative.
What might the long-term and short-term effects of USMCA be on the production, consumption, and trade of agricultural goods in North America?
Elker, J. (Producer). (2018). Six Big Changes NAFTAs replacement, the USMCA, makes. [Video]. Retrieved from https://www.washingtonpost.com/video/business/six-big-changes-naftas-replacement-the-usmca-makes/2018/10/02/67395a6c-c674-11e8-9c0f-2ffaf6d422aa_v
With the goal of sustainably feeding 10 billion people by the year 2050, the question must be posed, what steps are we taking today to meet this goal? Several other questions include-
- What does it mean to live sustainably in the 21st century?
- What roles and responsibilities do farmers have in this sustainability goal?
- What current practices in food production can remain the same and what needs to change?
- What is the United States’ role in sustainably feeding 10 billion people by the year 2050?
While no one person or organization holds the answers to these questions, many people are working diligently to create solutions to move towards sustainable practices in agriculture.
Many decisions are made when producing and consuming food in the United States. Stakeholders must take into consideration supply and demand, food prices, market values, and many other variables. In addition to the decisions that producers of food must make, consumers also have several decisions to make that include what types of food to buy, prices, and when to consume or throw food away. These are all things that you will be challenged to think about as you explore Food for Thought.
What is Sustainable Agriculture?
According to the Agricultural Sustainability Institute, “The goal of sustainable agriculture is to meet society’s food and textile needs in the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs. Practitioners of sustainable agriculture seek to integrate three main objectives into their work: a healthy environment, economic profitability, and social and economic equity. Every person involved in the food system—growers, food processors, distributors, retailers, consumers, and waste managers—can play a role in ensuring a sustainable agricultural system.”
Sustainable agricultural practices include:
- Promoting soil health
- Minimize water use
- Lower pollution levels on the farm
Consumers and retailers may consider:
- “Value-based” foods which entails products that have been grown using farmworker wellbeing
- Products that are environmentally friendly
- Products that strengthen the local economy
Topics to explore in sustainable agriculture include:
- Addressing food insecurity
- Conservation tillage
- Controlled Environment Agriculture (CEA)
- Cover Crops
- Dairy Waste Management
- Direct Marketing
- Energy Efficiency & Conservation
- Food and Agricultural Employment
- Food Labeling/Certifications
- Food Waste Management
- Genetically Modified Crops
- Global Sustainable Sourcing of Commodities
- Institutional Sustainable Food Procurement
- Biologically Integrated Farming Systems
- Integrated Pest Management (IPM)
- Nutrition & Food Systems Education
- Organic Farming
- Precision Agriculture (SSM)
- Soil Nutrient Management
- Sustainable Postharvest Management Practices
- Technological Innovation in Agriculture
- Urban Agriculture
- Value-Based Supply Chains
- Water use Efficiency
- Water Quality Management
- Zero-Emissions Freight Transport
What are the biggest challenges to sustainability in agriculture? Why might these items and issues challenge the agricultural industry?
What are the benefits stemming from sustainable agricultural practices? Who would benefit from these sustainable practices?
Explore the Agricultural Sustainability Institute website more in depth and learn more about the issues surrounding sustainable agriculture. What issues and methods described interest you? In your response please explain why you choose to look at the issues and items that you did.
How do these sustainable practices compare and contrast with what is currently being practiced in agricultural industry?
What is sustainable agriculture. (n.d.). Agricultural Sustainability Institute. Retrieved from https://asi.ucdavis.edu/programs/ucsarep/about/what-is-sustainable-agriculture
2030 Agenda on Sustainable Development
The United Nations’ focus with the Sustainable Development Goals includes goals to address poverty, inequality, climate, environmental degradation, prosperity, and peace and justice.
The 17 goals include—
- Goal 1: No Poverty
- Goal 2: Zero Hunger
- Goal 3: Good Health and Well-Being
- Goal 4: Quality Education
- Goal 5: Gender Equality
- Goal 6: Clean Water and Sanitation
- Goal 7: Affordable and Clean Energy
- Goal 8: Decent Work and Economic Growth
- Goal 9: Industry, Innovation and Infrastructure
- Goal 10: Reduced Inequalities
- Goal 11: Sustainable Cities and Communities
- Goal 12: Responsible Production and Consumption
- Goal 13: Climate Action
- Goal 14: Life Below Water
- Goal 15: Life On Land
- Goal 16: Peace, Justice and Strong Institutions
- Goal 17: Partnerships for the Goals
Using the Sustainable Development Goals website explore the 17 goals and learn more about what this plan entails.
Take a closer look at the 17 items within the Sustainability Development Goals. What goals may be the most challenging to achieve by 2030? Why might these specific goals be so challenging? What goals might be the easiest to achieve? Why might these goals be so easily achievable?
What are some of the programs and policies that the U.N. hopes to create with this plan? What role might the United States play in these policies and plans?
Looking at the goals, is there anything missing that you might add related to agricultural production, consumption, and trade? What might those items be and why do you think that they are important to add to the Sustainable Development Goals for 2030?
United Nations. (n.d.). Sustainable Development Goals. Retrieved from https://www.un.org/sustainabledevelopment/sustainable-development-goals/
Water is a key resource that plays an important role in agriculture across the United States. In states and regions where there is little rainfall it is key that the use of water is managed to provide the crops what they need to thrive. In areas like California where rain falls variably from year to year solutions must be put in place to ensure crops flourish.
According to the Agricultural Research Services (ARS), “ARS scientists have saved millions of gallons of water on farms in California and in other dry States by developing an automated irrigation scheduling system that targets water to where and when it is needed most. The technology monitors soil and crop conditions and records rainfall levels so that it can time irrigation with a sophisticated variable-rate center-pivot irrigation system. The technology is the first of its kind for center-pivot irrigation systems, which are used on more than 50 percent of the Nation’s irrigated croplands.”
Why is it important that sustainable use of water is taken into consideration in 21stcentury farming practices?
What role does conserving water play in both sustainability and global climate change?
Agricultural Research Services. (2018). Saving watera precious global resource. Scientific Discoveries: The Impact of Agricultural Research Services (ARS) Research-Fiscal Year 2017, p. 13.
Conservation and Protecting Natural Resources
Farmers have taken conservation seriously throughout the years and their efforts have made a difference. There has been a 44% decline in soil erosion from wind and water since 1982. Due to provisions in the farm bill funding is provided to farmers and ranchers for conservation efforts preventing soil erosion, preserving and restoring wetlands, cleaning the air and water, and enhancing wildlife. In addition to soil and water conservation, the practice of crop rotation also plays a role in caring for the land, as well as, contour farming where farmers plant crops across slopes for purposes of water conservation and protecting the soil.
According to the American Farm Bureau, “No-till or conservation tillage—a way of farming that reduces erosion (soil loss) while using less energy—is used on more than twice as many cropland acres compared to conventional tillage. Advanced conservation practices are used on more the 50 percent of cropland acres.”
|Practices||Acres||Percentage of Acres|
|Planted to a Cover Crop||10,280,793||3%|
|USDA Conservation Programs||27,485,000||7%|
Looking at the practices that farmers and ranchers use to protect natural resources and support conservation, can you think of other practices that could be integrated into farming and ranching to protect water, soil, and wildlife?
What are the positives and negatives to practicing conservation in farming and ranching? Do the positives outweigh the negatives or do the negatives outweigh the positives? Please explain your rationale.
American Farm Bureau Foundation for Agriculture. (2017). Environment. Food and Farm Facts, pp. 20-21.
What about the Food that Never Leaves the Farm?
It is calculated that U.S. food waste equates to 40% not including on-farm food loss. When researchers look at the food that never leaves the farm there is a story to be told. Fruits and vegetables that are planted and never harvested have an impact on loss of water, chemical inputs, and labor, as well as, loss of nutrient dense, recoverable food. It is important for both farmers and policy makers to focus on this food that never leaves the farm when making decisions. While the priority of farmers is to sell USDA No. 1 products, one should ask, what should happen to the “ugly produce” (fruit and/or vegetables that are misshapen, dented, or damaged in some way) or the produce that does not meet these standards?
There are several markets for farmers to consider when deciding whether or not to harvest the “ugly produce.” These markets include programs at grocery stores, subscription box home delivery programs, and food banks. You can read about these markets in the following excerpt—
“As noted above, alternative markets for products not meeting USDA grading specifications do exist in some locations. We account for these possible markets with four alternative scenarios: Scenario 1 reflects the case where marketable and edible categories of product are offered for sale in “ugly produce” markets such as produce-box programs or retail, which pay farmers 50% of the value of USDA No. 1 grade products. Scenario 2 reflects the case of selling the marketable and edible recovered produce to a food bank at $0.07/lb. These sales prices reflect those received by farms in the study region. Scenario 3 reflects the case where marketable product is sold at 100% of the value of USDA No. 1 grade products, while the edible portion of the harvest is sorted and sold to “ugly produce” channels at 50% of this value. Scenario 4 reflects the case where marketable product is sold at 100% of the value of USDA No. 1 grade products, while the edible portion of the harvest is sold to a food bank at $0.07/lb. Inedible produce is assumed to have zero value and thus not included as a source of revenue in these scenarios.”
Farmers have many decisions to make when deciding if they will harvest “ugly produce.” Looking at the different scenarios presented, what would you do if you were a farmer faced with this decision?
What are the pros and cons of choosing to harvest “ugly produce” or leaving the “ugly produce” behind?
Now, consider the impact of your choice made above, what are the short-term and long-term implications of the decisions you have made? Who may be impacted by your decisions? How might your decisions impact water usage, chemical usage, and labor? What are the trade-offs you have made by deciding to harvest or leave the “ugly produce” behind?
Dunning, R. D., Johnson, L. K., & Boys, K. A. (2019). Putting dollars to waste: Estimating the value of on-farm food lose. Choices, Quarter 1. Retrieved from http://www.choicesmagazine.org/choices-magazine/theme-articles/examining-food-loss-and-food-waste
According to NASA:
“The Earth's climate has changed throughout history. Just in the last 650,000 years there have been seven cycles of glacial advance and retreat, with the abrupt end of the last ice age about 7,000 years ago marking the beginning of the modern climate era — and of human civilization. Most of these climate changes are attributed to very small variations in Earth’s orbit that change the amount of solar energy our planet receives.
The current warming trend is of particular significance because most of it is extremely likely (greater than 95 percent probability) to be the result of human activity since the mid-20th century and proceeding at a rate that is unprecedented over decades to millennia.1
Earth-orbiting satellites and other technological advances have enabled scientists to see the big picture, collecting many different types of information about our planet and its climate on a global scale. This body of data, collected over many years, reveals the signals of a changing climate.
The heat-trapping nature of carbon dioxide and other gases was demonstrated in the mid-19th century.2 Their ability to affect the transfer of infrared energy through the atmosphere is the scientific basis of many instruments flown by NASA. There is no question that increased levels of greenhouse gases must cause the Earth to warm in response.
Ice cores drawn from Greenland, Antarctica, and tropical mountain glaciers show that the Earth’s climate responds to changes in greenhouse gas levels. Ancient evidence can also be found in tree rings, ocean sediments, coral reefs, and layers of sedimentary rocks. This ancient, or paleoclimate, evidence reveals that current warming is occurring roughly ten times faster than the average rate of ice-age-recovery warming.3”
Climate change: How do we know? (2019). NASA. Retrieved from https://climate.nasa.gov
Questions About Climate Change
What have you learned about global climate change? What questions do you have regarding global climate change? NASA has created a “Frequently Asked Question” (FAQs) page where people have submitted their questions and answers have been provided.
NASA: Global Climate Change—Frequently Asked Questions
Before exploring NASA’s webpage, reflect on what you have heard and learned about climate change. Write down three to five things that you think you know about climate change.
Next, create three questions that you have about climate change.
Then, explore NASA’s Global Climate Change: Vital Signs of the Planet website and the Frequently Ask Questions area to see if you can find the answers to your questions. While searching for the answers to your questions also compare and contrast the facts that you wrote down from your previous learning.How does your prior knowledge compare with what you learned during your exploration of the website?
NASA: Global Climate Change. (2019). NASA. Retrieved from https://climate.nasa.gov
Climate Impacts on Agriculture and Food Supply
Agriculture greatly impacts the U.S. economy. Crops, livestock, and seafood contribute more than $300 billion to the economy each year and when factoring in food-service and other agricultural industries the impact is even greater at $750 billion to the gross domestic product according to 2016 data. Overall, the climate has a big impact on agriculture. Both increases in temperature and carbon dioxide (CO2) can increase certain crop yields, but only if nutrient levels, soil moisture, water availability, and other conditions are met. Impacts of climate change including droughts and floods can also pose challenges to farmers, ranchers, and food safety.
According to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), “Overall, climate change could make it more difficult to grow crops, raise animals, and catch fish in the same ways and same places as we have done in the past. The effects of climate change also need to be considered along with other evolving factors that affect agricultural production, such as changes in farming practices and technology.”
Looking at the impacts and effects of climate change, the EPA has detailed the impact on several sectors of the agricultural industry including impacts on crops, livestock, fisheries, and the international impacts of climate change. Exploring these detailed explanations can help you to better understand both the short and long term impact climate change can have on agriculture.
Take some time to explore the Climate Impacts on Agriculture and Food Supply. Having explored the different areas of agriculture being impacted by climate change, what do you think could be done to achieve sustainable practices in farming and raising livestock with the current climate conditions?
Looking at the breakdown of the impact of climate change on the different agricultural sectors, what are the short-term and long-term effects of current changes in the climate?
How might scientific and technological advancements in agriculture assist in changing agricultural practices as the climate continues to change?
Climate Impacts on Agriculture and Food Supply. (2016). United States Environmental Protection Agency. Retrieved from https://19january2017snapshot.epa.gov/climate-impacts/climate-impacts-agriculture-and-food-supply_.html
The Green New Deal (GND) is a set of proposed programs that have set the goals of cutting emissions, promoting renewable power, and supporting more sustainable food systems so that everyone has access to healthy food and clean water. This resolution--House Resolution 109 Recognizing the duty of the Federal Government to create a Green New Deal, was released by Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and Senator Ed Markey on February 7, 2019. This resolution was then referred to the Subcommittee on Water Resources and Environment on February 8, 2019.
The Green New Deal: What's in the Resolution
According to the congressional documents, The Recognizing the duty of the Federal Government to create a Green New Deal, H.Res. 109 states, “This resolution calls for the creation of a Green New Deal with the goals of
- achieving net-zero greenhouse gas emissions;
- establishing millions of high-wage jobs and ensuring economic security for all;
- investing in infrastructure and industry;
- securing clean air and water, climate and community resiliency, healthy food, access to nature, and a sustainable environment for all; and
- promoting justice and equality.
The resolution calls for accomplishment of these goals through a 10-year national mobilization effort. The resolution also enumerates the goals and projects of the mobilization effort, including
- building smart power grids (i.e., power grids that enable customers to reduce their power use during peak demand periods);
- upgrading all existing buildings and constructing new buildings to achieve maximum energy and water efficiency;
- removing pollution and greenhouse gas emissions from the transportation and agricultural sectors;
- cleaning up existing hazardous waste and abandoned sites;
- ensuring businesspersons are free from unfair competition; and
- providing higher education, high-quality health care, and affordable, safe, and adequate housing to all.”
Looking at the goals of the Green New Deal, in what way(s) will the agricultural industry be impacted if this resolution becomes law?
Are there additional ideas and/or items that you think should be included in this resolution that are not currently being proposed? Please explain why you believe these items to be important for the goals of the Green New Deal.
Recognizing the duty of the Federal Government to create a Green New Deal, H.Res.109, 116th Cong. (2019). Retrieved from https://www.congress.gov/bill/116th-congress/house-resolution/109
How the Green New Deal will Affect Farmers
According to MSNBC there are several ways that the Green New Deal will impact famers in the United States. See the issues that are discussed in the following news clip--How the Green New Deal will affect farmers.
MSNBC addresses current controversies involved with the Green New Deal and its impact on Americans. What are your thoughts on the impact that this proposed resolution could have on farmers and agriculture overall?
What are both the pros and cons of the Green New Deal? Please explain why you would support or refute this resolution.
Ruhle, S., Velshi, A., & Hillyard, V. [Reporters]. (2019, February 20). How the Green New Deal will affect farmers. MSNBC. Retrieved from https://www.msnbc.com/velshi-ruhle/watch/how-the-green-new-deal-will-affect-farmers-1445571651790?fbclid=IwAR3ftotH0C
The USDA Strategic Goals webpage lays out seven goals to be accomplished by the USDA from fiscal years 2018-2022. A pdf of the strategic plan can be found at-- https://www.usda.gov/sites/default/files/documents/usda-strategic-plan-2018-2022.pdf.
According to the USDA, the seven strategic goals for 2018-2022 set forth by the USDA include:
- Ensure USDA programs are delivered efficiently, effectively, and with integrity and a focus on customer service.
- Maximize the ability of American agricultural producers to prosper by feeding and clothing the world.
- Promote American agricultural products and exports.
- Facilitate rural prosperity and economic development.
- Strengthen the stewardship of private lands through technology and research.
- Foster productive and sustainable use of our National Forest System Lands.
- Provide all Americans access to a safe, nutritious and secure food supply.
The USDA explains, “Our strategic goals outline key priorities and strategies, and objectives to achieve them. Over the next four years, we will continue to provide the best possible service to our customers-the farmers, ranchers, foresters, and producers of American agriculture and ‘do right and feed everyone’.”
Explore the USDA Strategic Goals website and take a more in-depth look at each of the objectives that align to the seven goals set forth by the USDA. Once you have explored the website please answer the following questions.
What do you believe to be the most important issue included in the USDA’s strategic goals for 2018-2019? In your response please explain why you believe this to be so important.
Looking at the goals listed, are there issues missing from this list that the USDA should have included? Why do you believe that the USDA should include these issues within their strategic plan?
USDA Strategic Goals. (n.d.). U.S. Department of Agriculture. Retrieved from https://www.usda.gov/our-agency/about-usda/strategic-goals
With all that is going on in agriculture in the “Information Age,” we must begin to look to the future and create plans to meet the needs of the projected 10 billion people that will inhabit the earth in 2050. Looking to technological and scientific advancements, conservation, sustainable practices, and climate change, we must make decisions today that will impact the United States and the global community for years to come. We must also ask ourselves what the United States’ role is in meeting the needs of the 10 billion inhabitants of the Earth in 2050.
The Journey 2050 project poses the question, “How will we sustainably feed nearly 10 billion people by the year 2050?” With the world’s population on the rise this project helps explore the impact that feeding the world’s population has on the Earth. Journey 2050’s mission is, “Feeding the world is the responsibility of all. We need to think about the ways we act now so that future generations and our natural environment may prosper.” Journey 2050 provides resources and information on a plethora of topics including antibiotics and hormones, chemicals, food waste, GMO, health standards, pests and disease, population growth, and productive land.
Using the resources and information from Journey 2050, explore the global impact that agriculture has on both people and the environment.
What is the United States’ role in providing food for the projected 10 billion people in 2050?
How can the U.S. be a global partner in food production and trade?
What are some of the impacts on society and the environment as farmers prepare to feed 10 billion people in 2050?