The first day of Spring can't come fast enough for those of us still dealing with the cold weather which has plagued our state for much of the winter.
But as we approach March 20, we can look forward to better weather while at the same time celebrating a Nebraska treasure.
Agriculture is an integral aspect of our nation, and always has been. So it is fitting we celebrate National Agriculture Day on the first day of Spring.
Agriculture provides almost everything we eat, use, and wear on a daily basis. Employment opportunities exist in farm production, agribusiness management and marketing, agricultural research and engineering, food science, education, landscape architecture, urban planning, and other fields.
Nebraska has 47,000 farms and ranches, with many located in the Third Congressional District. These farms and ranches utilize 45.6 million acres -- or 93 percent of our state's total land area. Do you like popcorn? Nebraska ranked first in the nation in popcorn production in 2007. Nebraska also ranks first in commercial red meat production, first in commercial cattle slaughter, and first in irrigated land.
Cash receipts from farm marketing contributed more than $17 billion to Nebraska's economy in 2008. In 2009, Nebraska ranked second in ethanol production capacity, with 23 operating plants having a capacity of 1.8 billion gallons. That same year, our livestock industry accounted for 48 percent of Nebraska's total agricultural cash receipts.
Agricultural products are America's number one export, and about 17 percent of raw U.S. agriculture products are exported yearly, valued at $43.5 billion.
The industry generates 20 percent of the U.S. Gross Domestic Product, and one-fourth of the world's beef and nearly one-fifth of the world's grain, milk, and eggs are produced in the U.S. Two out of every three bushels of corn in the world originate in the United States.
Thanks to research and improvements in technology and production practices, farms which produced enough food for 20 people in 1940 can now feed more than 140 people. With the global population estimated at 6.2 billion today and expected to reach 7.5 billion by 2020, reliance on agriculture will only become more pronounced.
Precision farming boosts crop yields and reduces waste by using satellite maps and computers to match seed, fertilizer, and crop protection applications to local soil conditions.
I am proud to be a co-chair of the Congressional Rural Caucus -- a bipartisan group of members who work together to address the challenges facing our nation's agriculture producers. Further, as a member of the House Agriculture, Natural Resources, and Science and Technology Committees, I have the opportunity to work with colleagues on both sides of the aisle to strengthen our rural communities and promote agriculture. We need strong, sustainable rural economies to encourage economic development and promote energy security. We need to lessen governmental regulations which cripples our family farms, and we need to make the most of research and development into new technologies which will not only help our farmers and ranchers do their job more efficiently, but also lead to new opportunities for rural communities.
Agriculture has a role in our economic, social, and environmental future of our country and is too important to only be celebrated by those in the industry or once a year.
National Agriculture Day is dedicated to celebrating the impact agriculture has on our state, our nation, and our everyday lives. I'm proud to represent a district which truly embodies the spirit of this celebration.