With recent news reporting on superbugs, and the on-going outbreak of salmonella from chicken parts on the West Coast, this primer provides some research-based information for clarity on the topic.
The term "superbug," a label coined by the mass media, refers to bacteria that cause serious disease in humans.
Infections from these pathogens are difficult to treat as those organisms have resistance to a number of commonly used antibiotics (multi-antibiotic resistance).
When the discussion of superbugs comes up, some people immediately identify food as a major issue.
Pesticides, a term that includes herbicides, in-secticides and fungicides, have contributed to significant crop yield increases over the past five decades.
When properly used, pesticides contribute to higher yields as well as enhanced product quality.
These attributes are achieved by controlling weeds, insects and plant pathogens that would otherwise limit food production and safety.
However, because pesticides may possess toxic properties, their use often prompts concern about human health and environmental consequences.
Organic food sales in the United States grew from $3.6 billion in 1997 to an estimated $28 billion in 2012.
Organic food sales amount to roughly 4 percent of the total food dollars spent by consumers of the nearly $800 billion U.S. food sales annually.
Looking strictly at organic food sales, growth has been especially rapid since 2002, when USDA established national standards for organic agricultural production and processing.
Following two years without a farm bill, The Agricultural Act of 2014 was signed into law Feb. 7.
How this legislation is actually implemented has not yet been determined.
Also, the resulting impacts on businesses, families, and individuals will only be learned once the federal programs are tested in the real world.
Let's take a quick look at what has been resolved as our new farm bill.
The United States addresses agricultural and food policy through a variety of programs, including commodity support, nutrition assistance, and conservation.
With the severe winter weather, many of us animal lovers spend a fair amount of time and energy trying to provide comfort for our four-legged charges. For those of us in agriculture, this can be a challenge especially when neighbors don't appreciate the methods we use to care for domesticated livestock.
Every now and then, somebody gets quite concerned to see livestock outside when the temperatures are low and the wind is blowing.
Let's consider appropriate winter livestock husbandry as outlined by veterinarians and university professionals.
The average size of a U.S. crop farm has changed little during the past three decades.
However, this seeming stability masks important structural changes in our farm sector: There are growing numbers of very small and very large farms, and declining numbers of mid-sized farms.
In 2011, 1.68 million U.S. farms had an average size of 234 acres, according to our USDA.
However, 80 percent of farms were smaller than this average with just 45 acres.
On the other hand, most cropland was on much larger farms those with 1,000 acres or more. How can this be?
We understand every American farmer feeds roughly 155 people.
Since these people do not have to farm to feed themselves, they are free to pursue other careers.
This phenomenon is often referred to as the "industrialization of agriculture."
By increasing the productive capacity of our farmers we were able to devote massive amounts of creativity and innovation to manufacturing, technology, communications and trade.
What is this thing we call "productivity?"
We hear about how few farmers there are.
This may cause us to wonder why more people are not building careers as farmers.
One significant reason we don't have more farmers is productivity.
Because today's farmers are so productive, many do not have to farm in order for us all to eat.
We are free to pursue other careers such as bankers, manufacturers, teachers and nurses.
Productivity is the ratio of output to input in production; it is a measure of the efficiency of production.
Productivity has many benefits.
Recently, the popularity of P-Y-O family outings has increased.
It is no wonder. We can enjoy not only the fruits and vegetables we may harvest, but we also get to experience some time on a real farm.
We are fortunate each month brings the availability of a different fruit or vegetable.
What is available for us to pick varies on location, varieties planted and weather conditions, so always call the farm so you don't miss the products you are after or the times they are available to pick.
We hear quite a bit about the concepts of sustainability lately.Everything from fuel to em-ployment to housing is referred to as needing to be sustainable.
I wonder how we have come to reconsider our food and fiber production in terms of sustainability.
What are the ecological, economic, social and philosophical issues sustainable agriculture addresses?
The long-term viability of our current food production system is being questioned for many reasons.
The news media regularly present us with the paradox of starvation amidst plenty.