Farmers, through their hard work, sacrifices and inspiration, continuously produce a positive impact that spans country borders, oceans and generations, according to Craig Hill, president of the Iowa Farm Bureau Federation (IFBF).
"You, as farmers, are helping the world in untold ways as you create benefits to society," Hill said during his opening speech to delegates and others at the 2017 IFBF Summer Policy Conference, held last week in West Des Moines. "You will never know just how many lives, including millions of people still unborn, who will be touched by your work to produce the abundance that you do."
To illustrate the positive impact of agriculture, Hill highlighted the work of Norman Borlaug. A native Iowan, Borlaug is considered the father of the Green Revolution for his groundbreaking work to raise crop production through plant breeding.
Borlaug, who was raised on a simple farm near Cresco and received his early education in a one-room schoolhouse, is also one of the few people on the globe to receive the Nobel Peace Prize, the Presidential Medal of Freedom and the Congressional Gold Medal, Hill noted.
"Borlaug is credited with saving a billion lives and is often called the man who fed the world," Hill said.
But Borlaug knew that no single person was responsible for saving all of those lives, Hill said. The Noble prize winner often said that he built upon the work of others to develop improved crops to help the developing world grow more food, Hill said.
"So maybe Borlaug was not the only one who saved a billion lives," he said.
Some of the credit, Hill said, can be directed to another Iowan, Henry A. Wallace, who was secretary of agriculture and later vice president under Franklin Roosevelt. Wallace, who was also the founder of Pioneer Hi-Bred International, was responsible for establishing the research station in Mexico where Borlaug did much of his work developing wheat and other crops that forever improve global agriculture, the IFBF president said.
"So it was Wallace who gave Borlaug the opportunity," Hill said.
Carver was instrumental
It was another adopted Iowan, George Washington Carver, who had profound influence on young Henry Wallace, Hill said. Carver, a student at Iowa State University, took Wallace, the son of one his professors, on walks to examine plants.
On those walks, Carver helped inspire the young Wallace to work in agronomy to find ways to increase production and help feed the world, Hill said. "No one really knows how many products Carver developed from peanuts and sweet potatoes, but we do know that he changed Henry A. Wallace’s life."
The credit for saving a billion lives could also go to a Missouri farmer, Moses Carver, Hill said. After pro-slavery bushwackers from William Quantrill’s gang kidnapped baby George Washington Carver, Moses Carver ransomed him, brought him back home and helped begin his education, he said.
"The truth is that we don’t really know who is responsible for saving a billion people because it wasn’t a single action," Hill said. Instead, he said, it was good works building on good works that made the positive difference.
"It’s all of us working together, with a spark of inspiration, that makes the real difference," Hill said. "Every move that a farmer makes counts. It makes a difference to your family, to your community, to your country and to people around the world, many of whom are still unborn.
"We produce an abundance because we know, as Borlaug did, that scarcity is not an option," Hill concluded.