Around the Alliance Tire Group offices, there’s been a lot of debate lately over one of the statistics we have used in few recent blog posts—that 1 U.S. farmer feeds 155 people worldwide, compared to 1 U.S. farmer feeding 25.8 people worldwide in 1960. Somewhat recently, Kim Reynolds, the Lieutenant Governor of Iowa, made a similar claim when she stated at an event that “an Iowa farmer produces enough food to feed 155 people worldwide. Compare that to the Iowa farmer, who in 1970 produced enough food to feed 73 individuals." While these numbers are imperfect (we’ll get into that below), it’s a testament to the ability of U.S. farmers to keep pace with the world’s increased demand for food by improving the efficiency and productivity of their operations.  

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How they get the number

The number used is based on calculations done by the USDA through the 70s and now done by the American Farm Bureau Federation. Bob Young, chief economist with the farm bureau, explains that the number is based on a ratio where the cash receipts from farm ag products (395 billion in 2012) is subtracted from the trade balance (38 billion in 2012), and divided back into the cash receipts from farm ag products (395 billion in 2012). To arrive at the number of farmers, economists take the U.S. population (313 million people in 2012) and divide it by the number of farms in the U.S (2.17 million farms in 2012).  

Why the number is flawed?

The first flaw with the statistic is that it only accounts for the number of farms, not the number of farmers. In many cases, there are multiple farmers working a farm, which is especially relevant as farms have grown in size over the years. Another flaw in the statistic is that it assumes everything produced by the farm is sold as food, which is simply not the case. Much of what U.S. farmers grow serves other purposes, such as for use as animal feed, or in biofuels. In fact, roughly a third of the U.S corn crop is used to feed livestock, while another 40% of it is used to create ethanol.

While the number may be flawed, it does an excellent job of demonstrating the incredible progress made by modern agriculture; some economists using the old equation, but recent data, suggest that the number might be closer to 160 people now fed worldwide by 1 U.S. farmer. While things like better fertilizer, the use of high-tech software, the implementation of bigger and more powerful machinery, and a host of other innovations have allowed farmers to make these incredible gains, ATG is proud of the small part we have played in U.S. farmers’ increased productivity.   

How Alliance is helping

Since 1950, Alliance Tire has been making tires to support the innovative new machinery being deployed in the field. More than just making a tire, Alliance has been engineering tires to keep up with the advancements in ag equipment. As machines get bigger, Alliance purpose-builds tires to handle the requirements of being used with the larger machines. Not only built to handle ag’s equipment, Alliance developed tires to minimize the impact of that equipment by engineering tires that minimize soil compaction and help increase the productivity of the farm. As farms have gotten larger, Alliance has also increased the durability and longevity of our tires, helping farmers stay in the field and out of the shop. It’s been incredible to see the advancements in ag and what farmers are able to accomplish today, and rest assured we are already working on the tire of tomorrow.