Food, farm system comes to fruition

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By Harold Morgan

“The food and fiber system” is what the U.S. Department of Agriculture calls farming and the related industries.
“Even though farming accounts for only about 1 percent of the total national workforce, it is at the core of the food and fiber system… The food and fiber system is defined as involving all economic activities from the farm to the consumer,” federal ag guys say.
This broader definition includes both activity before production, the “inputs,” the production itself and post-production activity such as food processing and manufacturing, for example, turning plant and animal hides and fibers into fabric and shoes.
As can be seen from the name, our principal job statistic—non-agricultural wage and salary employment—by definition leaves out agriculture. One reason, no doubt, is that farms and ranches are small family businesses in terms of the numbers of people involved and don’t file the forms required to be “employees” and therefore counted. Besides, how might one count the labor of teenagers?
Farming itself accounts for less than one percent of gross domestic product. Throw in everything else, however, and the employment proportion grows to 18.6 percent in the mountain states.

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