November 3, 2006
By Lynne Finnerty
The United States passed a major milestone on Oct. 17. Our population reached the 300 million mark. We reached 200 million in 1967 and 100 million in 1915.
To spotlight this growth, the U.S. Census Bureau released statistics to show how life has changed over the last 91 years.
You don't have to be very old to remember a first-class stamp cost just a nickel in 1967. The cost was only 2 cents in 1915. Today, that stamp will cost you 39 cents.
The average price of a new home has gone up to $290,600. In 1967, the price was a much more affordable $24,600, or about $150,000 in inflation-adjusted 2006 dollars. Back in 1915, a new house would set you back just $3,200, or about $64,000 in 2006 dollars.
But, get this: While the price of most things has gone up, the price of milk has come down. The average price of a gallon of milk is $3 today. It was $1.03 in 1967, but that's $6.24 in today's dollars. The price was 36 cents a gallon in 1915, or $7.22 in 2006 dollars.
Houses are very different today. They're bigger and have things that were luxuries in 1915. But a gallon of milk is still pretty much a gallon of milk.
The Census figures also show that the number of farms has shrunk dramatically. There were 6.5 million farms in 1915. Today, we're down to 2.1 million.
If you think the U.S. population has exploded, then get a load of the global numbers. The world population has grown from 1.8 billion people in 1915 to 6.5 billion today.
As our country's population grows and the number of farms decreases, who is going to feed all those people? We know the farmer's share of each dollar spent for food in this country continues to shrink, while farmers continue to pay higher expenses to produce our food. It makes you wonder just how farmers are going to keep feeding our growing country.
Farmers will have to continue to be highly productive to satisfy our food demands and stay in business. Thanks to larger-scale farming and modern agricultural equipment, hybrid seeds and biotechnology, we produce more food on fewer farms today than we did in 1915. Farmers will rely on continued advances in agricultural technology to increase productivity.
There are some people who want farming practices to be closer to those used in 1915. They are suspicious of technological advancements in agriculturedevelopments that in many ways also have benefited the environment. If those people can explain how we're going to feed not just the 300 million in the U.S., but also many of the 6.5 billion in the worldplus the population growth yet to comeusing 1915 technology and practices, then farmers are listening.
The vision of mom and pop standing in front of their barn with a pitchfork as their "equipment" and a dozen cows grazing in the pasture is a pretty picture, but it's more in line with 1915 than 2006.
Today's farmers can say that over 300 million are servedthanks to modern agricultural practices.
Lynne Finnerty is the editor of FBNews, a publication of the American Farm Bureau Federation.