March 18, 2013

Celebrating the role of agriculture


*Special post by Senator Mike Johanns

Johanns, Mike-011409-18419- 0007Each morning, while the rest of the world is still fast asleep, ag producers across Nebraska are up, checking on their herds or preparing their equipment for a long day in the fields.  Careers in farming or ranching offer few days off.  Cattle still need to be fed on Christmas morning. Crops, ripe for harvest, don’t care about your vacation plans. A break from the fields on a rainy day is an opportunity to get caught up on equipment maintenance. And animals don’t need veterinarians only between 9 and 5.

For 365 days a year, farmers toil with the earth and tend to their livestock to provide food and fiber for the rest of the world, but how often do we consider how the produce gets to the supermarket? One day in particular is devoted to raising this awareness.

agdayMarch 19 marks the 40th National Ag Day, a time to celebrate the hard work by America’s ag producers to provide safe, abundant and affordable food supplies, and an opportunity to reflect on how the products we depend on every day reach store shelves.

In Nebraska, where nearly 47,000 farms and ranches form a patchwork across the state, we are well versed in the chain of events that must occur before food can reach the table, but in many places across the country, where farmland gives way to pavement, this important work can easily be taken for granted. National Ag Day offers a chance for all Americans to learn about the important role agriculture plays in our country, not just in feeding and fueling the world, but also by providing jobs at home and strengthening relationships abroad.

Agriculture dominates Nebraska’s economy.  The state leads the nation in red meat production at more than 7 billion pounds a year. It also produces more popcorn and Great Northern beans than any other state, and ranks fourth in total land mass used for ag production. That’s a lot of livestock and cropland to maintain. But all that hard work can pay off. Nebraska’s agriculture receipts total more than $21 billion a year—a huge part of the state’s economy. And our state’s $6.9 billion in ag exports generates $9.3 billion in economic activity at home.  A third of all jobs in Nebraska are tied to agriculture, and the state enjoys one of the lowest unemployment rates in the country: 3.8 percent, compared with 7.7 percent nationally.

The benefits of American agriculture go far beyond our borders. We produce more food than we consume and we continue to foster trade opportunities that help feed the world while strengthening our economy. At home, places like the University of Nebraska are researching new ag techniques to help farmers grow more food on less land using fewer resources to continue feeding a growing global population.

Many ag organizations will be descending upon Washington to help tell the story of the important role agriculture plays in our country’s prosperity. It couldn’t come at a better time, as lawmakers continue to craft a new fiscally-responsible, reform-minded farm bill that focuses on needed risk management tools, and better reflects the state of the ag industry. Ag producers work hard year round to provide necessities to our nation. We all benefit from the fruits of their labor.  It’s time Washington returns the favor by passing a responsible five-year farm bill.


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