Published July 1976 — Download PDF of the original newspaper column
Byrd's-Eye View By U.S. Senator Robert C. Byrd U.S. Is World Food Leader On farms, ranches, and orchards all across America, farmers, ranchers, and growers are hard at work producing what appears to be another bumper crop for American agriculture. This is a certainly a good sign, because, when American agriculture is healthy, everyone benefits. For those who do not have the opportunity to see at first hand the vastness and complexity of our agriculture, it is easy to overlook the tremendous contributions it makes to our nation. The riches produced annually on our farms are spread across the entire spectrum of American economic life, and they reach overseas into many foreign markets. When we have bountiful harvests, Americans eat well. our economy receives a massive shot in the arm, and foreign governments are eager to buy up the surplus. One cannot help but be impressed by the statistics on American agriculture. We lead the world in the production of meat. milk, eggs, turkeys, chickens, vegetables, feed grains, citrus fruits, and many other foods. We produce more food and fiber than does any other nation, and the most powerful nations are dependent upon our agriculture because of its unexcelled quality, productivity, and efficiency. Agriculture is America's greatest growth industry and our largest employer, with 4.4 million workers on the farm. From the farm to the dinner table, the nation's agriculture and related industries require an additional 10 million workers t o s t ore, transport, process and merchandise the food and fiber produced from fewer than 3 million farms. American agriculture has been a remarkable success story. Since 1970. our export sales have tripled from $6.7 billion to nearly $22 billion forecasted for 1976. And in only one decade, production on our farms has increased a_ full one quarter, to over 534 million metric tons of crops, meats, and consumable by-products. This staggering figure represents 2% metric tons for every man, woman, and child in America. Historians write t h at Napoleon said an army travelled on its stomach. It wouldn't be much of an exaggeration to say that a nation's economic and social welfare depend largely on its ability to feed itself. With the abundant harvests we have come to expect from our farms every year, the fate of the country seems to be in good hands.