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150th Anniversary of USDA

Floor Speech

Location: Washington, DC


Mr. ROBERTS. Mr. President, today I wish to recognize the marking of an historic event. 150 years ago--on May 15, 1862--President Abraham Lincoln signed into law an Act establishing what our Department of Agriculture is today.

Agriculture has come a long way in 150 years. Through science, innovation, ingenuity and plain old hard work, America's farmers have gone from producing enough food for their individual families to producing enough to meet the needs of 150 people per farmer--that's what I call the miracle of modern agriculture.

Some may have a romanticized view of agriculture production 150 years ago and pine for a return to the days of the past. But let me assure you, those were hard days. And if today's farmers and ranchers only produced the same yield and quality of food as the farmers and ranchers of yesteryear, we'd be in a world of hurt.

Today's farmers and ranchers produce the safest, most abundant and affordable food and fiber supply in the world--all while facing increased input costs and tightening regulations.

As if these challenges weren't enough, our producers face a challenge of worldwide significance. As the global population tops 9 billion in the next several decades, agriculture production must more than double to meet the expected demand for food and nutrition.

In addition to the sheer population expansion, global food demand will shift toward higher value proteins and commodities as economies develop and prosper. For example, in 1985 the average person in China consumed roughly 44 pounds of meat. This increased to 90 pounds per person in a short 15 years. That number is expected to double again by 2030.

That's no small task. It will take advancements in technology, efficiency and in some cases simply getting government and regulatory roadblocks out of the way. Doubling agriculture production will only occur through production techniques that combine the use of important conservation practices with the use of improved seed varieties that increase drought and disease resistance while increasing yields.

The importance of agriculture's mission cannot be overstated. It is also a matter of national security. A well fed world is a much safer and stable place than a hungry world. Full bellies lead to stability, economic growth and peace. Hungry bellies lead to discontent, instability, and extremism.

The more nations we can help to feed and bring economic prosperity, the more stable the world as a whole will become.

Now I don't know if 150 years ago President Lincoln knew how important the role of agriculture would become to global stability or what USDA's role would be in answering these challenges. But this anniversary provides us a unique opportunity to thank our producers for their efforts in bringing agriculture this far, and to let them know that we stand beside them in meeting the challenges ahead.

Mr. President, I yield the floor.


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