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A Publication of WTVP

Food in America is affordable. In fact, between January 1 and February 8, the average American will have earned enough income to pay for his or her family’s entire 2002 food supply.

The Farm Bureau celebrates Food Check-Out Day February 8—recognizing the bounty of America’s farms, and how that bounty is shared with American consumers through affordable food prices. According to the latest statistics compiled by the USDA’s Economic Research Service, American families and individuals currently spend, on average, just 10.6 percent of their disposable income for food.

If you apply the current 10.6 percent 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 39 days.

The percent of disposable personal income spent for food has declined over the last 25 years. In 1970, Food Check-Out Day would have been 12 days later—February 21. According to the USDA, food is more affordable today due to a widening gap between growth per-capita incomes and the amount of money spent for food.

This overall decrease is even 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.

This speaks well of our nation’s increasing standard of living, which would certainly be reduced without the safe, abundant and affordable domestic food supply produced by farmers.

One way farmers have been able to produce our food efficiently is through their adoption of biotechnology. The agricultural community has long supported new technologies that improve production and help make food even more affordable for consumers. For example, farmers have been selectively breeding animals and crops for centuries to improve disease resistance and to produce higher yields.

Biotechnology research is closely monitored by federal and state agencies, including EPA, USDA, and the FDA. While it can be an effective tool, biotechnology as used on farms—such as new corn and soybean varieties—will not run rampant and produce mutants (as exhibited in science-fiction movies.) During a biotech research project, perhaps one gene in 10,000 is manipulated to achieve a small, but desired result.

Another way farmers have efficiently produced our food is through the use of pesticides. Farmers are strongly motivated to use crop protectant responsibly. First, they have respect for the laws and regulations governing crop protectant use. Second, farmers have a personal commitment to protect consumers, their families and the environment from reckless chemical use. Third, there is a definite economic interest in reducing chemical costs.

Federal and state agencies closely monitor levels of pesticide residues in food. Allowable limits are set hundreds, even thousands of times lower than levels that would pose any potential health risk. IBI

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