AU'S GOGUE URGES FARMERS TO ARM THEMSELVES WITH KNOWLEDGE
MOBILE, Ala. -- Auburn University President Jay Gogue urged an audience of more than 600 farm families attending Thursday night's opening banquet of the Alabama Farmers Federation's 35th Commodity Producers Conference to arm themselves with facts so that they may help dispel common myths of agriculture.
|Auburn University President Jay Gogue.|
"Where I come from most recently, you often hear people -- bright people, educated people, community leaders -- say that agriculture is something that we used to do, not something that we do today but something that we used to do," Gogue said. "All of you know those kind of statements are not accurate, but I would encourage you to become armed with facts that you can use in these discussions."
That emphasis on education was also evident earlier Thursday night as Federation President Jerry A. Newby recognized longtime Montgomery County Federation member and Ag In The Classroom Chairman Jane Alice Lee and Freddie Patterson, director of the Federation's Department of Governmental Affairs, for their efforts to bring the Ag in the Classroom program to Alabama school children.
The three-day conference, designed to help farmers improve the profitability of their own operations, continues Friday as
groups board buses for tours of farming operations throughout Mobile and Baldwin counties as well as southeastern Mississippi.
On Saturday, numerous educational workshops and seminars and the Federation's Women's Division's annual Cotton Sewing and Quilting Contests will fill the morning and afternoon before wrapping up Saturday night.
Gogue, who began his tenure as Auburn University's 18th president on July 16 and graduated from there in 1969, noted that since 1950 the U.S. agricultural output has increased more than 500 percent despite a 60 percent reduction in the farm labor force and on far fewer acres of land.
"If the agricultural technology of the 1950s was used today to feed our nation, we would need over 400 million more acres of land under cultivation," Gogue said, adding that there is a $10 return on every $1 invested on agricultural research. Even so, he said, only about 2 percent of the federal budget goes toward agricultural research, less than was spent more than two decades ago.
Gogue also noted that the agriculture is still the No. 1 Gross Domestic Product of the United States at around $2 trillion, and 17 percent of America's labor force. In Alabama, it's about 20 percent of the labor force.
"If you travel around the world in developed countries, a family will spend about 22 to 25 percent of their income on food," Gogue said. "In the United States, it's between 10 and 12 percent on food, about half of what it takes in other countries."
"So, when I look at where we've been and what we have in the future, we certainly need (the Federation) and each of you to help us to tell our story better," he said. "I can tell you that we at Auburn are committed to work with you to try to find solutions that work best for us in Alabama."