Agriculture needs to reclaim its heritage from those who would besmirch the image of the nation’s farmers.
“We need to take our voice back,” said Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Director Doug Steele during his keynote address, or as he put it, “just a few comments,” at the 52nd Stiles Farm Field Day Tuesday in Taylor, Texas.
“Others have taken the word sustainability away from us,” Steele said to a crowd gathered in the Knights of Columbus Hall, a plan B put into action as a tropical storm bore down on Central Texas and threatened to further saturate the Stiles Farm even more than recent rainfall had done.
The off-site, indoor venue did not dampen the enthusiasm of the field day participants or the fervor of the speakers, especially Steele, who said agriculture’s critics try to “turn agriculture into something evil,” when farmers “are the original conservationists. We are the Green Revolution. We need to reclaim that.”
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He said the Stiles Farm Field Day, for more than a half-century now, has shown area producers and others interested in modern agriculture, how farmers are able to maintain the traditions of a rural lifestyle while being progressive in adopting new, more efficient practices to feed more people and provide an abundant, safe and affordable supply of food and fiber.
“U.S. consumers spend from 6 percent to 8 percent of their disposable income on food,” he said. “China consumers spend 29 percent, and some African nations spend more than 75 percent. We produce safe food. We don’t produce cheap food but we are cheap compared to other countries.”
He said agriculture’s ability to change has been a crucial component in farmers’ successes. “Agriculture is in an ever-changing world. We have to keep an eye on tomorrow.”
He said the emergence of the sugarcane aphid in sorghum shows how the agriculture landscape can change in a season. “We had to change quickly,” he said, to manage that emerging threat to an important commodity.
“From 2011 to 2015 we also witnessed climate variability,” he said.
The Stiles Farm, “a not-for-profit, self-supporting institution established by bequest from the late J.V. and H.A. Stiles for the advancement of agriculture and the benefit of all Texans,” shows agriculture’s traditions and the opportunities to advance through applied research, Steele said.
“The Stiles Farm Field Day allows us to talk about the next best practice.”