– Dr. Francis Fluharty, Professor and Head of the Department of Animal and Dairy Science at The University of Georgia and Ohio State University Professor Emeritus
When I read online media stories that blame animal agriculture for being a large part of the environmental problems we have, it troubles me that people are so far removed from agriculture and food production that they don’t realize how connected to nature farmers are. I’m thankful for animal agriculture, from the producers who raise the livestock, to the grain farmers who grow grains and other crops whose byproducts we feed to livestock and companion animals, to the companies who produce, and distribute byproducts, to the feed companies who formulate products so that animals receive the proper nutrition, to the companies and people involved in delivering high-quality animal-based products to consumers around the world. I have often considered speaking up in defense of animal agriculture, because globally protein-energy malnutrition is the largest cause of human deaths; and in 2020, the World Health Organization estimated that more than 149 million children under the age of five were too short for their age, and another 45 million were too thin for their height. In fact, 45% of deaths of children under five years of age are attributed to undernutrition (https://www.who.int/news-room/fact-sheets/detail/malnutrition).
The agricultural system in the United States is the most efficient, sustainable food production system in the world, and is looked up to by developing, and developed, countries around the globe. It wasn’t, however, something that just happened! In 1862, Justin Smith Morrill’s Land-Grant Act was passed to provide affordable, accessible higher education for the children of the working class. Then, in 1887, the Hatch Act was passed to provide public funding for science-based research directed to the needs of farmers in order to provide a plentiful food supply to the burgeoning urban population. This was followed in 1890 with the Second Land-Grant Act, whose purpose was to provide a means for providing affordable, accessible higher education for African-Americans in the then-segregated Southern states. The increase in knowledge gained from research required the dissemination of information, and this was assured in 1914 with the passage of the Smith-Lever Act, which established the Cooperative Extension Service to disseminate the information learned in agricultural research. In the last 108 years, the Cooperative Extension Service, a branch of Land Grant University colleges of Agriculture, which now include Food and Environmental Sciences, has trained scientists and millions of farmers, young people involved in 4-H, nutritionists, and consumers in everything from vegetable and fruit production to animal production to poultry production, horticulture, plant pathology, crop and soil sciences, agricultural economics, consumer sciences, rural sociology, and agricultural education. In many states, there are county-level Extension agents in agriculture, youth development, and consumer sciences. This network of people providing training on things such as pesticide application, responsible herbicide use, animal welfare, animal production, natural resource management, and food safety is unparalleled in other parts of the world.
As companies are switching to more food items made without animal products, I can’t help but think that with fewer Americans involved in food production at the farm level, we are increasing our Continue reading