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March 21, 2017   |   Diesel Technology Forum

Policy Insider

Feeding the World - Give Thanks to Farmers - March 21 National Ag Day

From the food we eat, the fibers in our clothes and many other uses, we simply could not live in the modern era without agriculture.


Today March 21st is National Ag Day highlighting the essential role America’s agricultural industry plays in our everyday life. From the food we eat, the fibers in our clothes and many other uses, we simply could not live in the modern era without agriculture. And our growing global population will demand even more from our farms in the future. 

It is widely agreed that increased productivity is the main contributor to economic growth in U.S. agriculture. According to the USDA, the level of U.S. farm output (grains, milk, corn, etc.) was about 2.7 times its 1948 level in 2013, growing at an average annual rate of 1.52 percent. Aggregate input use (fuel, fertilizer, etc.) increased at a modest 0.05 percent annually in the same period, so the positive growth in farm sector output was very substantially due to productivity growth, which increased at an average 1.47 percent per year. But what exactly is productivity?

A key contributor to the productivity on American farms is the machines and equipment that do the planting, harvesting and tending to the land. Today, the majority of agricultural equipment in the U.S. and around the world necessary to plant cultivate and harvest these crops and transport them to markets or for processing and then delivered ultimately to the consumer is powered by a diesel engine. Ninety-six percent of the large trucks that move agricultural commodities to railheads and warehouses are powered by a diesel engine. One hundred percent of the freight locomotives, marine river grain barges and ocean going vessels that deliver these products to markets at home and abroad are powered by diesel.

And America’s farms are key underpinnings of our economy. According to the Department of Commerce America’s farms, fisheries and forests are the most produced $417 billion in economic activity for the third quarter of 2016, the last full year for which official statistics are available. 

For over 100 years, diesel engines, fuel and the equipment they power help make America’s farms the most productive in the world, by doing more work with fewer people, and using less energy (fuel) to do that work. And the Agricultural sector is leading the way on productivity and efficiency.

Today’s tractors are connected to the farmer’s tablet, each other, the dealer, the cloud and the field with real time data tracking and GPS guidance with feedback on everything from ground conditions to direction of travel. This connected and smart farming technology saves time, lowers the use of fertilizers, herbicides and pesticides and other inputs to the farm. Autonomous vehicles may be coming soon to city streets but have been around in farming for several years. Newer generations have appeared such as CASE’s autonomous tractor. A recent headline “Google didn’t lead the self-driving revolution.  John Deere did” – says it all about the innovation and leadership of farm equipment makers. John Deere’s AutoTrac™ guidance system is but one real-world example.

Thanks to decades of research and billions of dollars in investments, today’s diesel engine and the vehicles and equipment it powers on the farm is fundamentally different. It is near zero in emissions, more fuel efficient, powerful and productive, and can use blends of renewable biodiesel fuels, making it a key foundation of sustainable farming, helping reduce the price of crops and food.

By 2040, the world's population is predicted to rise to nine billion. That means two billion more mouths to feed. Along with more sustainable farming practices and more efficient farming techniques, more productive and efficient machines will be required. The leaders in farm engine and equipment technology like AGCOCumminsJohn DeereCASE IH and Yanmar are already delivering.



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Ezra Finkin
Director, Policy
efinkin@dieselforum.org
301-668-7230

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