Texas farmers and ranchers will join in the 24th celebration of National Agriculture Week on March 16-22 as the nation honors its food and fiber producers.
National Agriculture Week is held to unite the entire food and agriculture industry and provide an opportunity to promote a better understanding among consumers about the important role this industry plays.
From the cotton, corn and sorghum fields of the South Plains; the cattle feedlots and wheat fields of the Panhandle and Rolling Plains, to the vegetable fields and citrus groves of South Texas and the timber forests of East Texas, Texas contributes heavily to the nation’s agricultural economy.
It ranks first in the nation in the production of cotton and spinach, cattle, beef cows, cattle on feed, sheep and ewes.
Despite a severe drought that ravaged much of the state in 1996, Texas producers still marketed agricultural products valued at $13.87 billion, said Dr. Jackie Smith, professor of agricultural economics and marketing specialist with the Texas Agricultural Extension Service at Lubbock. That, in turn, had an economic impact on the state of more than $45 billion, he said.
In Texas, agriculture employs about 18 percent of the workforce, the Extension Service economist noted. It includes persons engaged in producing, processing, transporting and marketing agricultural products.
“Most people are unaware of the connection between themselves and agriculture — they see themselves as totally removed from the farm. However, they or someone they know is probably employed by the food and agriculture industry,” he said.
Nearly 185,000 farms and ranches occupy nearly 80 percent of the 168 million acres in Texas. However, less than 2 percent of the state’s population live on those farms or ranches.
Nationally, agriculture produces about 16 percent of the gross national product; that figure is about the same at the state level.
A century ago, almost all of the population would have to spend at least six days a week growing their own food, and only a few people would be free to pursue other activities. Now, the food-gathering efforts of most people consist of selecting food from a grocery store and bringing it home.
Even though life expectancy has increased from 47 years in 1900 to 75 years now, a top concern of consumers is, understandably, food safety.
As late as 1906, most of the food-borne illness could be traced to diseased animals. Now, 94 percent of the food-borne illness in the United States is transmitted by microbiological contamination through improper cooking or preparation of foods, according to the national Centers for Disease Control. Chemical contamination accounts for only 4 percent of the illness.
Texas Ag. Facts
*Farmers and ranchers in Texas produce what is best suited for their regions: timber in East Texas, cotton and cattle in the Plains, cotton, sheep and goats in West Texas and along the Border, cattle and poultry in Central Texas, rice and cattle along the Gulf Coast, and vegetables and grain crops in the Rio Grande Valley.
*Texas ranks first in the nation in the sales of cattle and calves, sheep, goats, cotton and spinach, and in the number of farms and ranches.
*Texas farm cash receipts for 1996 were $13.87 billion. That had an economic impact on the state of more than $45 billion.
*Agriculture employs about 18 percent of the workforce in Texas in the actual production of food and fiber, as well as in processing, transportation, manufacturing of equipment, and research to ensure the industry remains a world leader. Nationwide, that number is 17 percent.
*Nearly half of the total farm cash receipts comes from meat animals.
*Nearly half of the farms in Texas produce total sales of less than $5,000 per year.
*Only 1.2 percent of Texas farms produce more than $500,000 annually.
*Of each dollar spent for food, 22 cents went to the actual farm value of the food; 35 cents was spent on labor; 8.5 cents on packaging; 4.5 cents on intercity transportation; 4.5 on depreciation; 4 cents on advertising; and 21.5 cents on other items such as fuel and electricity, rent and repairs.