In honor of National Agriculture Day on March 15, Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack released the following statement.
"On this National Agriculture Day, we recognize the American farmers, ranchers, and growers who do so much for our country, producing the food our children need to grow up healthy and reach their full potential.
Today, we are building a 21st century agricultural economy that is stronger and more diverse than ever before, carrying on the rural values that represent the very best of us. The greatness of American agriculture spreads across the many ways that farmers grow and raise the food we eat, and USDA supports and celebrates them all. American agriculture is making nutritious food accessible to more American children and families than ever before.
Just today, we announced the results of the second-ever Farm to School Census, which found that schools across the U.S. purchased $789 million in local foods in school year 2013-2014, a 105% increase over the 2011-2012 school year when the first Census was conducted. USDA estimates that 5,254 school districts representing 42,587 schools and serving more than 23.6 million children are buying local products and teaching children where food comes from. This connection to our food will help our next generation to make better food choices and lead healthier lives. Farmers, ranchers, fishermen, and food processors and manufacturers are recognizing the growing market potential in locally and regionally produced products, and that doing good for children can also be good for business. But whether it is local, organic, conventional, or large-scale, all agricultural production has a role to play in giving consumers more options than ever to feed their families.
Many here in Washington, and in other parts of the country, don't always realize all that rural America does for us. Less than one tenth of one percent of Americans are responsible for growing 85% of our food. That gives the other 99% of us the great privilege of doing whatever else we want to do with our lives, which is an incredible freedom we take for granted in this country. When we go to the grocery store, we walk out of it with more money in our pocket as a percentage of our paychecks than people in many other countries in the world, and we can feel confident that the food we are feeding our families is wholesome and safe. That is truly something to celebrate.
So today, we thank our farmers, for providing a healthy start for our children, and for contributing to ever more vibrant communities."