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Skaggs: Give thanks to those who feed the world

POSTED: November 18, 2010 1:00 a.m.

These days, it may be a little tough to remain thankful as we endure a national economic crisis. However, it is in times like these that we should be all the more thankful for the many blessings we have received.

Many Americans will give thanks for their families, their jobs, their country and their freedom. All of these are certainly worthy of thanksgiving.

This year, I encourage you to give thanks to farmers from Georgia and other Southeastern states who despite countless production challenges continue to produce a wholesome food supply.

In America today, we enjoy a safe, abundant, high quality food supply. Even with rising food prices, we still spend a very small percentage of our income on food — only about 15 percent of our disposable income is spent on food. In many other parts of the world, the amount of household income spent on food is as high as 80 percent.

To demonstrate this fact, the American Farm Bureau Federation recently conducted its annual informal price survey of classic items found on the Thanksgiving Day dinner table. The survey found that the average cost of this year's feast for 10 is $44.61, a $2.35 price increase from last year's average of $42.26.

The Farm Bureau survey shopping list included turkey, bread stuffing, sweet potatoes, rolls with butter, peas, cranberries, a relish tray of carrots and celery, pumpkin pie with whipped cream and beverages of coffee and milk, all in quantities sufficient to serve a family of 10.

While providing this safe, affordable food, farmers continue to face tremendous struggles. Throughout much of the year, high energy prices severely affected several staples of agricultural production  — fuel for equipment, propane and natural gas for heating poultry houses and higher nitrogen fertilizer prices.

Aside from energy prices, the global demand for nitrogen, phosphorous and potassium continues to climb resulting in abnormally high fertilizer prices. And of course, we cannot overlook the staggering impact of the current economic recession on farmers and others involved in agribusiness.

Despite all these challenges, America's farmers continue to provide us with the food and fiber we need to go about our lives. As we move into the future, I am sure farmers and others involved in agribusiness will face difficult times, and I am equally sure that they will overcome these challenges just as they always have  — with determination, optimism, and hope for a brighter tomorrow.

This year as you sit down to enjoy your Thanksgiving meal, remember and offer thanks to those who toiled diligently to provide it: America's farmers.

Billy Skaggs is agriculture agent and county extension coordinator for the UGA Cooperative Extension in Hall County. You can contact him at 770-535-8293. His column appears biweekly on Thursday's Business page and at gainesvilletimes.com.



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