February 10, 2012

America's agricultural success: A well-kept secret?

PBS's Judy Woodruff filed a report this week on the PBS Newshour blog "The Rundown" following some time she spent with Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack.

The title of this post comes from her report – a report that explores some successes demonstrated lately from the agriculture sector.

"Amid all the worry about how long it will take the economic recovery to kick into high gear, there's a little-noticed sector that's doing very well, thank you: American agriculture." is how Woodruff begins her piece, which goes on to explore farm incomes, exports and the 2011 record U.S. trade surplus in agricultural products.

Here's a snippet from the piece, but be sure to check it out:
The question is WHY is agriculture doing so well? Vilsack, whose grandfather owned a farm, says back in 1975, the most productive farmers planted an average of 12,000 seeds per acre. Today, thanks to science, it's closer to 30,000.

After information technology, agriculture is the second most productive sector of the economy. Farm unemployment is dropping at a faster rate than the rest of the job specialties because of this, and because of what Vilsack calls "an extraordinary investment in infrastructure."

He describes an extensive supply chain including storage, transport, and equipment manufacturing. Farmers are buying lots of new machinery, like large tractors with sophisticated GPS systems, leading to new hiring on the part of companies like John Deere, which recently added 250 people at a plant in Ankeny, Iowa, that manufactures cotton pickers.

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