“What’s beautiful about this whole thing is that ANF means something different for everyone. Whether you’re in a farming community or not…Whatever your profession. Whether it’s not in your blood or it is and it’s all you know, everyone has a story on why ANF is important, especially if you’re from Iowa.”
Iowa Hawkeye and NFL great
2016 ANF Wall of Honor inductee
This Saturday marks ANF Game Day at the University of Iowa, an annual celebration of a cause that former Hawkeye football coach Hayden Fry started in the midst of the 1980s Farm Crisis. Fry placed a simple yellow “ANF” sticker on his team’s helmets in 1985 to draw attention to the crisis and remind fans that “America Needs Farmers.”
And while it’s a source of pride for those of us with a farm background, I can’t blame you for asking why it should matter to you, thirty-one years later.
Let’s set aside some obvious reasons for “needing” farmers. You probably don’t farm (less than five percent of Iowa’s population does). Maybe your job isn’t the one in five Iowa jobs that stems from agriculture. I hope that you’re not one of the one in eight Iowans affected by hunger. And the fact that we’ll need to nearly double worldwide agricultural output by 2050 to meet the needs of a growing global population may seem too disconnected from your current situation.
Even if you don’t “need” farmers for those reasons, you definitely need farmers for a variety of daily necessities, especially food and energy. As fundamental as it is to our existence, growing and raising the crops and livestock that provide food and energy for your family year-round isn’t easy. And providing the building blocks for food and energy for hundreds of people (the average U.S. farm produces enough food to feed 168 people in a year), while preserving and protecting our natural resources and caring for animals religiously requires a level of expertise that many of us aren’t willing or able to develop.
That expertise has allowed the U.S. grow its crop yield (tons per acre) by 360 percent since 1950, while decreasing soil erosion by nearly 50 percent and total crop land used by 15 percent since 1982, according to USDA.
It’s okay that not all of us possess that expertise. We don’t all need to be farmers, or doctors, or teachers.
But that means we all need to embrace an incredibly simple, but underappreciated fact (especially during an election year): we need each other. And if we need each other, that means we need to respect and look out for each other. Just as farmers need to understand our different food preferences, we need to hear their explanation of why they’re innovating and using technology that will ultimately benefit us. When farmers tell us they’re using GMO technology to grow their crops, we need to hear their rationale before putting up a road block. We might just learn that there’s something in it for us. For example, in counties where GMO crops have been planted, pesticide use has fallen by 37 percent and crop yields have increased by 22 percent since 1995, according to the Biotechnology Innovation Organization. And according to Purdue University, a total ban on GMO crops would result in lower crop yields, causing us to plant more acres of crops and release 900 million more metric tons of CO2 (equal to burning 960 billion pounds of coal or consuming 2 billion barrels of oil).
Yes, ANF started as a way to show support for struggling farm families in 1985, but it matters more than ever in 2016 because of what it means for all of us today.
By Zach Bader. Zach is Iowa Farm Bureau’s Online Community Manager.