America's farmers, ranchers and growers are some of our nation's greatest assets. Not only do we rely on agriculture for our food, feed, fiber, and fuel, our agricultural producers preserve our environment, and help drive our national economy.
As I travel the country, I often ask folks when they last took a moment to thank or appreciate a farmer. The truth is that we owe a debt of gratitude to the hard working men and women who provide us -- and much of the world -- with a safe, reliable, affordable, and abundant food supply.
Last week, USDA and others celebrated National Agriculture Day, a great time to consider the important contributions that American agriculture makes to our lives.
Agriculture is responsible for one out of every 12 jobs in America. Thanks to decades of investment, hard work and innovation, American farmers and ranchers enjoyed some of their best incomes in three decades last year.
While many sectors of our economy are running trade deficits, American agriculture has enjoyed a trade surplus for nearly 50 years. Last year saw a record agricultural trade surplus of $42 billion and record agricultural exports that helped support more than 1.1 million jobs across the nation. We expect strong incomes and exports again this year.
What's more, America's farmers and ranchers are the most productive in the world, helping support the strength and prosperity of our nation as a whole. American families spend only 6 or 7 cents out of every dollar on food -- less than almost any other nation and half as much as in Japan or Italy. That means we have more to spend on a nicer home, to save for retirement, or to fund our children's college education.
America's farmers have taken extraordinary steps to take care of our nation's natural resources. In the last 30 years alone, USDA has worked to help producers reduce soil erosion by more than 40% and agriculture has gone from being the leading cause of wetland loss to leading the entire nation in wetland restoration efforts. Our farms act as carbon sinks, mitigating the impact of global warming. Land that remains in farming, pasture, or forest helps clean the water we drink and the air we breathe. Today, through the production of renewable energy like wind and biofuels, they are increasingly helping move our nation towards energy independence.
For generations, America's farmers and ranchers have helped our nation stay strong. Let's use National Agriculture Week to recognize the important work our farmers and ranchers do for this country and the world and say, simply, "thank you".