Farm Talk

June 25, 2013

The importance of agriculture

Josh Coltrain

Parsons, Kansas — I know this is not breaking news (and I am probably preaching to the choir), but agriculture is important, even in the modern world. Recently, I was asked to speak at a Rotary Club meeting in Pittsburg, and the topic I was asked to present was the importance of agriculture. Honestly, I am not accustomed to speaking about such a broad topic, but I truly appreciated the experience.

I began by asking the crowd of 40 or so how many of them grew up on a farm. I should admit that I am naïve, but I was surprised to see only six hands raised (excluding myself). I guess I expected a few more hands raised, though I probably should not have been so surprised since the number of farms is still decreasing.

How important is agriculture to Kansas? The Kansas Agricultural Statistics releases a Kansas Farm Fact report annually from which I thought I would highlight some points from the 2012 Fact Sheet that is based off of data from 2011.

Kansas was ranked first in wheat production with 276,500,000 bushels which comprised 13.8 percent of the wheat produced in the United States. Just for visualization sake, that much wheat would fill the inside of the new Dallas Cowboys Stadium 3.3 times.

Kansas also ranked first in grain sorghum production with 110,000,000 bushels which is 51.3 percent of the grain sorghum produced in the United States. For a state known as “The Sunflower State”, Kansas only ranked third in sunflowers produced with 149,400,000 pounds. Kansas also ranked third in cattle slaughtered with 6,417,800 head which was 18.8 percent of the cattle slaughtered in the US.

Corn production ranked 9th with 449,400,000 bushels harvested. This made up only 3.6 percent of the US total which gives you an idea of just how much corn was produced nationwide. Soybean production ranked 11th with 101,250,000 bushels produced, which was 3.3 percent of the US total.

Kansas ranked third in the amount of land in farms with 46,000,000 acres with the average farm size being 702 acres. This number really needs the context that the whole state of Kansas is made up of just over 52,000,000 acres.

There were many more rankings for many more commodities, but if you total up all of the value of the farm marketing in 2011, it would be $15,858,516,000 with $5,286,800,000 worth of commodities exported. Again, for comparison sake, the aeronautics industry exported $2,131,015,077 for 2011 according to the Kansas Department of Commerce.

So why is agriculture important today? The world population continues to grow at a fairly rapid rate. As of writing this, there are 7,093,065,650 people in the world according to the world population clock on the US Census Bureau Website (http://www.census.g ov/popclock/) and 316,090,650 people in the United States. When you read this, check out the number for yourself and see how much it changes over a period of time.

The real question facing agriculture is can we feed this number of people? I’m afraid I don’t know the answer to that question. Farmers and ranchers have been producing more and more commodities from, essentially, the same amount of acres used. To keep up with the population growth, efficiencies must increase at a similar rate.

If you have questions or would like more information, please call me at the office (620) 724-8233, or e-mail me at jcoltrain@ksu .edu, or visit the Wildcat Extension District Website at www.wildcatdistrict.ksu .edu. £