Forage Management: Why is American Agriculture so Great?

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Gary Bates

Dr. Gary Bates
Director and Professor
UT Beef & Forage Center
P: 865-974-7324

Last month I spent time watching the Olympics, becoming an “expert” in sports that I know absolutely nothing about.  There has always been something special about watching American athletes competing on a world stage, with me rooting them on in every event.  I have always been proud to be an American, to live in the most exceptional country that has ever been on the face of this planet. Even if there are people that don’t agree with this, our country is founded on the belief that you have the freedom to speak your own thoughts, even if it is unpopular.

This got me to thinking about the things that make our country great, and eventually I got to thinking why our agricultural system is the best in the world.  There are many reasons, but I would like to point out three reasons that I feel stand out.

American Producers

For the entire history of our country, Americans have had motivation to work hard, learn, and create new things that will benefit them, and ultimately the world.  Agriculture is no different.  Capitalism motivates producers to work hard, find ways to solve problems, and takes advantage of our soils and climate to grow profitable and sustainable crops and livestock.  The idea that you are working for you and your family’s benefit is very motivating.  Our country is built on the idea that you are free to do, think, and say what you want.  If you put in the effort, you can be successful.  There is no place this is more evident than in agriculture.  American producers are exceptional, and it shows in their work ethic and operations.  God bless them all.

Business and industry

Sometimes people think of industries and corporations as being these evil giants that pillage everything they come in contact with, simply to make another dollar.  There may be instances where this is true, but there are a hundred times more examples of industries that have created some type of advancement that has benefited our society.  Agriculture has many examples of this.  Look at the tractors we use, the herbicides and animal health treatments available, and the technology we have available.  Most all of that is due to a company investing time and resources to develop something that producers would utilize and be willing to pay for.   If our economy didn’t allow these industries to make money and flourish, many of these advancements wouldn’t be available to help the efficiency of our agricultural production systems.

The Land Grant System

I don’t want this to sound like I am patting myself on the back, but I am proud of the impact the Land Grant System has had on agriculture.  Over a century ago, our nation set up a system that would fund research to develop new techniques and recommendations to improve the agricultural production in our land.  This is what UT calls our AgResearch division.  Along with that, we developed a program to train the next generation of producers, industry leaders, and scientists through academic programs.  Our Herbert College of Agriculture has this role in Tennessee.  The last part of the land grant system is Extension, which has the responsibility of taking the latest discoveries in research and teaching producers across the state to incorporate the recommendations into their operations. I have spent my career with UT Extension, trying to help forage producers across the state. No other country has as effective of a system as the United States.  Each state in our country has a land grant school with these responsibilities.  The UT Institute of Agriculture takes this charge very seriously, and we work hard every day to fulfill that mission. 

Most people take for granted the food they eat, never realizing that one farmer produces enough food to feed 160 people. All they know is they stop by the store or restaurant and have plenty of choices.  They have forgotten that many of their ancestors had to spend all day every day working to make sure they had enough food.  Our country has the cleanest water and the cheapest, most abundant food supply anywhere in the world.  I feel blessed to have been able to play a small role in this.  Be proud of being part of that system. Thank you for what you do.