Tuesday, February 11, 2014

Is Agriculture Sustainable

My husband and I just returned from the NCBA (Nation Cattlemen's Beef Association) convention in Nashville Tennessee.  The buzz word for the convention was sustainability and what the definition means to the future of the cattle industry.  In ecology, sustainability is how biological systems endure and remain diverse and productive.  While I was contemplating my theories concerning sustainability, I receiveda a phone call from my daughter-in-law.  She was catching me up on some of the things I had missed during our absence, one was that our son Jacob had spoken during a public forum at the Escambia County Commissioners meeting.  This wasn't a suprise to me; Jacob has been working since the 4-H youth voted to see the Langley Bell 4-H center to insure that these young people receive what they were promised.  This conversation made me think even more about my new buzz word.  Farm and Ranch families comprise two percent of the U.S. population.  Twenty one million American workers (15% of total U.S. workforce) produce, process, and sell the nation's food and fiber.  Two percent provide for the nutritional needs of our great country.

In a letter to the editor Grover C. Robinson, IV Escambia County Commissioner District 4 stated "The Extension Service, a joint participation by Escambia County and University of Florida under IFAS, provides significant services to the community, both the traditional ag as well as other environmental services for the greater community.  The challenges are, while our traditional agriculture based in the northern two-thirds of this county, the other services provided create benefits to the 80 percent of the population that lives below Nine Mile Road."

I certainly don't disagree with commissioner Robinson's view on the challenges or the percentage of population served.  These numbers are very much in line with the previously mentioned percentages of 2% farmers/ranchers and 15% additional workforce that provide food and fiber for the rest of us.  So back to my buzz word, how do we sustain agriculture for future generations?  Are we going to ignore the few because they are the minority?  I don't know about you,but I like to eat!  Folks, we need young people to step into production agriculture if we are to be sustainable.  We need facilities that can be utilized to teach young people how to care for cattle, chickens, pigs, goats and sheep.  the Stefani Road facility has much to offer the youth of Escambia County.  Heck when I was a kid it would hae been a great location for a large animal program.  However, that was when I was a 4-H member back in the early 70's.  It might have even worked when my son's were in 4-H in the late 80's and early 90', but this property now sits in the middle of a residential area it is not the right location for a large animal program.  I have no issue with the new building to be constructed on Stefani Road.  This building has been part of the plan since the original MOU which indicated that The Escambia County Commission would contribute $1.5 million in local option sales tax for a new 4-H building with the plans subject to the approval of the Extension Service.  The issue is not the building but that Extension Service has gone over their very generous 1.5$ million dollar budget.  Now they want to tap into the funds that were promised to the youth in the same MOU for a new livestock facility.

I have been a 4-H member, a 4-H leader and have served on the Escambia County 4-H Foundation.  I believe in 4-H and the programs it provides for the youth of our county.  I also feel that the current leadership of 4-H has lost focus with regard to one sector of the youth that they are suppose to serve, the ones in that 2% that want to grow food for our nation and our world.  My husband and I both grew up south of Nine Mile Road.  We met in 4-H.  The only exposure we had to large animals was through our 4-H experience.  That experience lit the fire in us to raise cattle and become agriculture advocates.  We need facilities that can insure the fire is lit in our youth.  We need IFAS to consider the 2% and our future.  We need property and facilities in a location suitable for this education.  

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