Virginia will celebrate Ag Day, Sunday, March 20, to recognize the commonwealth's agriculture industry, an important part of Virginia's economy.
Agriculture and forestry contribute $47 million to the state's economy and provide 15 percent of total employment. Total annual sales for agriculture are $36 billion, according to the most recent data from the Virginia Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services.
There are more than 47,600 farms in Virginia with an average size of 181 acres. These farms comprise about 8,625,000 acres of Virginia's total of more than 25,340,000 acres.
"Helping Virginia's farmers and growers produce the safest food in the world is part of the mission of Virginia Cooperative Extension," said Jim Riddell, associate director of Extension's Agriculture and Natural Resources program. "Extension is a catalyst to help the state's farmers and growers increase their profitability, protect the environment, and assure an abundant and safe supply of food," he said.
Extension is the local connection with Virginia Tech and Virginia State University that provides educational programs for the agricultural industry. It also improves the quality of life for individuals, families, and communities, and supports economic self-sufficiency and family stability. The 4-H youth development program of Virginia Cooperative Extension provides youngsters the chance to learn leadership, citizenship, and life skills.
The efficiency of American farmers pays off in the price American consumers pay for food. According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, American consumers spend about 9 percent of their income on food compared with 11 percent in the United Kingdom, 17 percent in Japan, 27 percent in South Africa, and 53 percent in India. This great value is primarily due to improved equipment efficiency, enhanced crop and livestock genetics through biotechnology and conventional breeding, and advances in information management.
Research and technology advancements have created new uses for commodity crops like corn, soybeans, and various grains. Use of products like ethanol and soy-diesel will reduce American independence on fossil fuels and improve air quality throughout the United States
American agriculture also can be celebrated for its efforts in environmental conservation. Producers use computer and satellite technology to map their fields for production inputs. With today's technology, producers are better able to match seed characteristics and production practices to soil type and climate conditions. The result is higher yields with lower input costs from more efficient use of chemicals, fertilizers, and tillage. Ultimately that results in more food at a lower cost for consumers.