In these next several weeks, millions of Americans will gather around the dining room table with family and friends enjoying the harvest from the most bountiful food source in the world.
As the holiday season quickly approaches, it is important that we take a moment to recognize the important work that farmers do for this country and the world and to say thank you.
From the time you crawl out of the cotton sheets on your bed in the morning, to the time you brush your teeth at night with mint-flavored toothpaste, agriculture is there to help clothe, feed and fuel our economy.
I specifically want to thank farmers and congratulate them in this great state of Indiana.
Farmers practice sustainable agriculture and work every day toward preserving our natural resources, protecting the environment and conserving water. They are the original stewards or our land and are working to preserve the land of this great country.
The truth is that we owe a great deal to the hard working men and women who toil each day to feed America and the world.
Agriculture is responsible for one out of every 12 jobs in America. And while many sectors of our economy are running trade deficits, American agriculture has enjoyed a trade surplus for nearly 50 years. This year, the surplus is expected to exceed $30 billion. Thank you.
America's farmers are the most productive in the world. The average American farmer feeds 129 people every year. They are willing to adapt, embracing science and new farming technology to produce more than twice as much per acre as their grandfathers did 50 years ago. Today's agricultural producer operates in a high-tech, global market and must embrace technological advances. Today's farmer must wear many hats: Commodity market expert, agronomist, veterinarian, mechanic, information technology specialist and the list goes on.
For that, I say thank you.
However, even as our population has expanded and America's total cropland has remained about the same, we no longer worry about producing enough food for our nation, and are able to export as well. And this productivity from the farmer supports the strength and prosperity of our nation. American-grown food is relatively inexpensive compared to food in much of the rest of the world. Because of this, American families can spend more of their income on a home, save for retirement, or fund their child's college education. In fact, Americans spend only half as much of our total expenditures on food as do citizens of Italy or Japan.
Again, thank you.
Additionally, America's farmers have taken extraordinary steps to care for our nation's natural resources. In the last 30 years alone, USDA has worked to help producers reduce soil erosion by more than 40 percent and agriculture has gone from being the leading cause of wetland loss to leading the entire nation in wetland restoration.
Our farms act as carbon sinks, mitigating the impact of global warming. Land that remains in crops, pasture, or forest helps clean the water we drink and the air we breathe. Farmers are the country's first line of defense in the protection of our food, fuel and fiber -- a vital component of homeland security.
We know that today, the vast majority of Americans are increasingly disconnected from farmers and where their food originates. They may be three, four or five generations away from the farm, and agricultural producers compose only 1 percent of our total population. It is important for farmers across this state and nation to talk with consumers whenever possible.
On average, American consumers spend about 11 percent of their income on food products -- less than any other country. U.S. consumers enjoy the safest, most abundant, most affordable food and fiber supply in the world.
For generations, America's farmers have helped our nation stay strong. They've given America the highest quality food and quality clothing products to support our economy. Today, they are working to build a vital link to our energy independence.
Thomas Jefferson said, "Cultivators of the earth are the most valuable citizens. They are the most vigorous, the most independent, the most virtuous and they are tied to their country and wedded to its liberty and interests by the most lasting bonds."
Once again, during the hustle and bustle of this holiday season, I ask you to stop for a moment and say thank you to the American farmer for what he does for this state, country and world.