Friday, September 26, 2014

The Farm

I once heard a story from a Nebraskan who grew up in a large farm family. When he was a teenager, his father put him on a tractor to teach him how to farm. Long before GPS, his father was renowned for having the straightest crop rows in the county. The young man took off and carefully began to cultivate the field, often glancing over his shoulder to make sure the rows were absolutely straight. At the end of the field, he and his father examined this first effort. The snakelike meandering rows were a disappointing surprise. His father said to him: “Son, you have to pick one point in the distance and just stay focused.”

There are many life lessons in that story!

As we enter the beautiful fall harvest season in Nebraska, it’s a good time to remember just how much our agricultural way of life means to our economy, culture, and values. There is something very special about the farm way of life – it takes staying focused on a worthwhile goal, dedication, and patience. And this time of year, we see the results.

Nebraska’s ag economy is uniquely situated thanks to a convergence of factors: a strong agricultural tradition, fertile lands, good resource inputs, a robust transportation network, and viable markets for byproducts. We are one of the top states for cattle production, the third highest corn producer, the fourth leading soybean exporter, and a leader in biofuels. One in five American hamburgers comes from Nebraska. Our $7.3 billion in annual ag exports brings our state an additional $9.4 billion in economic activity.

Emerging trends in cover crop rotation will offer advances in naturally preserving soil health while also increasing biodiversity – a positive development for resource sustainability and environmental health. New trends in local foods production are linking farmers to families, and urban to rural, creating an exciting new opportunity for young and beginning farmers. It is interesting to note that the need for global food production will increase substantially by 2050. Nebraska will see increased demand for our products.

In a recent speech in Washington to a large number of development specialists, I jokingly asked, “When did agriculture become cool?” Ag studies are seeing a surge of interest. Additionally, young people, born into an increasingly interconnected world with a particularly globalized mindset, have a keen interest in using market-based initiatives and sustainable development to fight poverty. All of this is helping shape policy and form new visions for how we effectively leverage government resources in partnership with the private sector for more innovative models.

One of the new initiatives in Congress is the Global Food Security Act. This would codify what is currently called “Feed the Future,” which has shown great promise as a holistic approach to meeting food security needs. The United States has a long tradition of leadership in this area due to our devotion to humanitarian causes. This leadership also benefits us economically and culturally, creates the conditions for international stability, and enhances our own national security.

The Nebraska values of hard work, personal responsibility, family and community life are rooted in our great agricultural heritage. Agriculture will play an important role in shaping the outcomes of the 21st century, and with determination and focus, Nebraska is uniquely positioned to guide the way. We have much to offer.

About the Author:

JEFF FORTENBERRY has served as the U.S. Representative for Nebraska's 1st congressional district since 2005. He is the Chairperson for the Subcommittee on Department Operations, Oversight, Nutrition and Forestry. Vice Chair of the Subcommittee on Africa, Global Health and Human Rights and has a seat on the Subcommittee on the Middle East and South Asia. He is a member of the following Caucus groups:

Civil War Battlefield Caucus - Congressional Biofuels Caucus - Congressional Farmer Cooperative Caucus - House Renewable Energy and Energy Efficiency Caucus - International Conservation Caucus - Sportsmen's Caucus.

Congressman Fortenberry has become the most knowledgeable representative on Capitol Hill for nuclear security issues.

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