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My Top 3 Reasons for Loving Conventional Agriculture February 13, 2013

Second in a Three-part Series. The first article, My Top 3 Reasons for Loving Organic.

 

By Julie Murphree, Arizona Farm Bureau

I do see lots of Arizona agriculture. And, the biggest chunk of it is conventional. I checked our USDA numbers for Arizona’s cultivated acres and it’s at more than 70,000,000. Of that 70 million, 22,000 of those acres are organic. So the bulk of Arizona’s agriculture is conventional.

But before you think it’s just big corporate farming, know that 97% of Arizona’s farms are family owned. They might be big, they might be incorporated, but they are mostly family farms.

A few days ago, I told you why I love organic farming.  Ask me why I love Arizona’s conventional agriculture and I’ll usually give you the following three reasons.

  1. Conventional agriculture in Arizona represents a growing market. This is the same thing I said about organic farming. But our agriculture overall is growing. in 2011 and 2012 our agriculture industry in Arizona was a $10.3 billion industry. Today, the economists have crunched the numbers again and now Arizona agriculture represents a $12.4 billion industry for our state. As a close colleague told me recently, “In ag we grow stuff.”
  2. Conventional agriculture means robust supplies of great food. Since we’re planting and harvesting 12 months out of the year here in Arizona (few states can claim this outside of Florida and California), we can produce an array of fruits and vegetables and basic food commodities in your grains. In livestock, we have a robust dairy and beef industry too. Large production means well-stocked shelves in the grocery aisles.
  3. Conventional agriculture represents a healthy option, along with organic. Our agriculture system in America is one of the finest on earth. It’s innovative, modern, focused and ever-improving. We need it all. The food system in America is not broken; our diets are. The biggest problem is we have the joy of eating too much and too much of the stuff that packs the pounds on.

To bring home the reality of American and Arizona farmers and ranchers productivity gains, in 1940 one farmer could feed 19 people. Today one farmer on average can feed 155 people.

Our Arizona Dairy industry is currently at the top of the leader board among all agriculture commodities.

“Because we farm in the southwest and have higher production costs we have to be on top of our game,” says Arizona Farm Bureau President Kevin Rogers. “This percentage difference indicates Arizona producers get more out of their agriculture enterprises than our peers across the country. Also, I’ve found that Arizona farmers and ranchers are often first to embrace technology to survive in our environment. We have to evaluate every innovation and consider its application to survive and thrive in agriculture in this state.”
“Our farm community at all levels possesses a high interest in learning the facts about the farming operation. They’re highly educated in the science of farming,” says Eric Wilkey, president of Arizona Grain, adding his theories to Arizona agriculture productivity output. “Plus, the cost of water has pushed our farmers to be really innovative in productivity gains to offset those water costs. Other input costs drive this too and will drive innovation wherever in the country someone farms. But some of our unique costs to farming here are really driving innovation.”
So, whether it’s organic or conventional, Arizona agriculture rocks!

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