For quite some time, National Ag Day has been about recognizing and celebrating the contribution of agriculture in our everyday lives. According to Ag Day’s website, it encourages every American to understand how food and fiber products are produced, value essential roles of agriculture in maintaining a strong economy and appreciating the role agriculture plays in providing safe, abundant and affordable products.

Starting 42 years ago today, National Ag Day is the idea of finding a program to spotlight all the great work farmers and ranchers do to feed and clothe the United States and the world.

Interestingly, each American farmer feeds more than 144 people, which is an increase from 25 people in the 1960s, according to the Agricultural Council of America. Over the next 40 years, the Earth’s total population will increase from 7.3 billion to more than 9 billion, meaning that global agriculture producers will need to increase food production by 70 percent to meet demand, noted The Samuel Roberts Noble Foundation.

“The significance is to make sure that the policy makers in Washington D.C. know what farmers and ranchers do,” said Colin Woodall, Vice President of Government Affairs at National Cattlemen’s Beef Association.

Engaging the next generation is one of the important initiatives, Woodall said. The association brings in students to visit Capitol Hill, spend time with them and give them an overview of Ag Day and then they have a chance to meet with senators.

“Each organization chooses the students based on their own criteria,” Woodall said. “Then we make sure we have a program when they get here.”

Washington D.C. is the main hub where National Ag Day happens. Today, there will be a luncheon on Capitol Hill with all the participants with lunch and speakers. Later, the USDA main Ag Day celebration dinner is held.
The Agriculture Council of America hosts the campaign on a national level but there are also Ag Day events held across the country at the city and school level. Overall, the importance has changed from when National Ag Day first originated.

“42 years ago, everyone understood that we have to tell a story to the consumer and now, it’s even more important because there’s less of an understanding among Americans where their food comes from,” Woodall said.

Woodall added that it’s equally as important to make sure to engage the youth because it wasn’t one of the original goals.

“It helps develop the next generation while encouraging the youth to be politically active,” he said. “The youth must understand that decisions in Washington D.C. have an impact on their ability to become farmers and ranchers.”

As for the future, Ag Day will continue to grow and be even more important, Woodall said. More Americans are starting to want to know more about their food, and Ag Day will be the venue to help capitalize on that. The public should know the quality of food as well as the quality of farmers and ranchers.

“Everyone has to put on clothes and eat every single day,” Woodall said. “Without farmers and ranchers, it wouldn’t be possible.”