W1006: Agricultural Literacy
Statement of Issues and JustificationIn the year 2000, the earth's human population topped six billion. This growing population is experiencing changes in demographics, increased urbanization, increased worldwide agricultural production needs and changes in agricultural trade policies. The world population is dependent upon an agricultural system that will provide them with food and clothing, and a variety of other products to enhance their living environment (Dyer & Osborne, 1995). In areas all over the world, including Arizona, homes and businesses are being built on prime farmland to accommodate this growth in population. There is less farmland, but it is imperative that the three basic human needs of food, clothing, and shelter are provided for by the agricultural industry.
Agriculture in America is a broad-based growing industry, which employs people in virtually every community in the nation, which has played a vital role in the history of the nation and the food and fiber system, and which continues to play a vital role in our nation's economy and national security. Vital to the continued success of this industry, and the nation as a whole, is a well-informed literate society with regard to knowledge about agriculture(Elliot, 1999b). The ability to produce food and materials for human usage is a system in which the average American has taken for granted. This attitude has proliferated through the years and when combined with the population shift from rural communities to more urbanized areas, the real success story of American agriculture has been lost (Pope, 1990). As special interest groups involved in issues such as animal rights, pesticide usage, soil and water conservation, and other environmental concerns gain media and public attention, it becomes even more important that the general public have some background and understanding of not only what agriculture is all about, but of how it affects each person's life on a daily basis (Law, 1990).
The future of agriculture rests in the hands of the ninety-eight percent of the United States population who are not from the farm. As fewer people are directly involved in production agriculture, public support of the industry becomes even more important (Elliot & Olson, 1995). Agriculturally literate people can make personally informed decisions about agriculture related topics such as food safety, genetic engineering and pesticides versus non-pesticide issues. Those without this basic understanding react without reason, frightened for themselves and their families. The resulting damage to the industry in not repairable (Tisdale 1991). Many of the issues and problems facing agriculture today are important to more than those persons who are employed by the industry. Food safety, soil conservation, and animal welfare are examples of issues which directly affect agriculture, but are of serious concern to a broad range of citizens (Birkenholz, 1990).
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