A Publication of WTVP

Tsunami. Who really knew what one was two months ago or how to pronounce or spell the word? A massive Indian Ocean earthquake caused huge sea waves along hundreds of miles of shoreline. Survivors in the areas hit just need the basics: clean water, sanitation, and healthy food.

Events such as this let many of us take a step back to realize just how fortunate we are. We've always had clean water to drink and, for most Americans, plenty of food has been accessible.

We do have reason to celebrate and be thankful for our plentiful food supply in the U.S. The Farm Bureau would like to acknowledge our land of plenty through an event we call Food Check-Out Day, which takes place February 7. Food Check-Out Day is a celebration of the bounty from America's farms and how that bounty is shared with American consumers through affordable food prices.

According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture's Economic Research Service, American families and individuals currently spend just 10 percent of their disposable personal income on food. Applying the current statistic to the calendar year, it means the average household will have earned enough disposable income-that portion of income available for spending or saving-to pay for its annual food supply in just 37 days (January 1 to February 7).

The percent of disposable personal income spent for food has declined over the last 34 years. In 1970, Food Check-Out Day would have been 14 days later-on February 21. According to the USDA, food is more affordable today due to a widening gap between growth in per-capita incomes and the amount of money spent for food.

This overall decrease is made more notable by the fact that trends indicate Americans are buying more expensive convenience food items for preparation at home, as well as more food away from home.

Here are a few more facts outlining the key role agriculture plays in the roots of our nation's economy. More than 24 million American workers (17 percent of the total U.S. workforce) produce, process, sell, and trade the nation's food and fiber. And 4.6 million of those people live on farms-slightly less than 2 percent of the total U.S. population.

There are 2.13 million farms dotting America's rural landscape. Nearly 99 percent of U.S. farms are still operated by individuals, family partnerships, or family corporations. These family farm operations are also caring for the environment. Over the past decade, farmers have dramatically increased their use of conservation tillage techniques that keep crop residue such as leaves and stalks in the field. According to the Conservation Technology Information Center, conservation tillage was used on 103 million acres and reduced tillage on another 64 million acres. No till/strip till acreage has grown steadily since 1990, when it was at 16 million acres. Nearly 60 percent of the acres planted to crops in the United States are included in these types of crop residue management. This greatly reduces field runoff and keeps crop protectants where they belong-in the field and out of streams. This helps protect water quality.

Plan to be part of Food Check-Out Day to celebrate what American farmers provide for us all. IBI