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Farm Bureau marks Ag Awareness Day in state
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Georgia’s farmers not only preserve the lush farmland you enjoy during a drive in the country, they also help feed the world.

According to the American Farm Bureau Federation, in 1960, one farmer fed an average of 46 people a year. Today the average U.S. farmer feeds 155 people a year.

According to the U.S. Census, the average American family has 3.14 people, so the typical farmer provides enough food to sustain 49 families per year.

The earth’s population is predicted to grow to 9 billion by 2050, which will almost double the worldwide demand for food, making farmers more important than ever before.

“Providing food and clothing for our fellow citizens is an awesome responsibility, and we take it very seriously,” said Stuart Exley, president of the Effingham County Farm Bureau. “We take a lot of pride in making sure the food is abundant, affordable and safe.”

Agriculture Awareness Day in Georgia is March 22 and will be marked by a celebration of the state’s largest industry at the Georgia Depot near the state Capitol in Atlanta. Winners of the 2011 Governor’s Agricultural Environmental Stewardship Awards and winners of the 2011 Flavor of Georgia Contest will be named.

The average U.S. household allots 12.4 percent of its budget to purchase food, the lowest percentage among the world’s developed countries.

While Georgia’s economy was declining from 2008 to 2009, the economic impact of the state’s agricultural producers was growing. According to statistics from the University of Georgia Center for Agribusiness and Economic Development, the state’s economy fell from $766.5 billion in 2008 to $727.3 billion in 2009. Over that same time period, agriculture’s economic impact grew from $65 billion to $68.8 billion. In 2009, food and fiber production and related processing accounted for 383,000 jobs in the state.

Georgia’s agricultural production holds its own with other U.S. states. Georgia farmers rank No. 1 in production of broilers, peanuts and pecans and second in cotton, cotton seed, fresh market cucumbers, spring onions, rye and fresh market snap beans.

More than 20 commodities produced in Georgia in 2009 were valued at $100 million or more. Nearly $5 billion worth of broilers and eggs were produced in the state and more than $700 million worth of cotton.

Not only do Georgia farmers produce the raw materials for our food and clothes, but they also provide the raw materials for hundreds of products we use in our everyday lives that aren’t often associated with agriculture. Included in these are toothpaste, shampoo, crayons, desks, baseball bats, pharmaceuticals, film, paper, paints, lumber and fuel. More than 100 medicines used by humans come from cattle. And, the products they produce are shipped all over the world. Agriculture is one of the few sectors of the U.S. economy that has a trade surplus.

Through improved production practices like conservation tillage to reduce soil erosion and protect water resources, farmers protect the environment.

Farmers’ work doesn’t stop with the basics of human life. Their land also provides food and habitat for 7 5 percent of the nation’s wildlife.

National Ag Week will be observed March 13-19, and National Ag Day is March 15.

Founded in 1937, the Georgia Farm Bureau Federation is the state’s largest general farm organization, with 158 county offices. Its volunteer members actively participate in local, district and state activities that promote agricultural awareness to their non-farming neighbors. GFB also has 20 commodity advisory committees that give the organization input on issues pertinent to the major commodities grown in Georgia.