This article was published in the March 21st, 2013 edition of The Capital Press, and was written by Celia Gould, Director of the Idaho State Department of Agriculture.
March 19th was National Ag Day, to celebrate America's farm and ranch families and the rich agricultural legacy we have here in the United States.
American agriculture really is nothing short of amazing. We have the safest, most abundant and most affordable food supply in the whole world. And that doesn't happen by accident, folks! It's a huge responsibility to feed our nation and most of the rest of the world, but our farmers and ranchers rise to the occasion three times a day! And their hard work contributes hugely to our economy as a whole.
In Idaho, agriculture is productive and diverse. Yes, we're famous for our gigantic, delicious potatoes, but that's not all Idaho farmers grow! There are over 185 commodities grown in this state, including beef, sugar beets, wine, and table grapes. Idaho's farm products are found everywhere. Idaho wheat is in Oreos, Wheat Chex, Wheaties and more. Many of the Outback Steakhouse's Bloomin' Onions come from the largest onion producing region in the world, which happens to lie on the border of southwestern Idaho and Eastern Oregon.
Idaho has the largest vegetable seed production area in the world, and we also produce many specialty foods, including sturgeon caviar and tilapia. Idaho's unique growing conditions, arid, hot temperatures during the growing season and rich, volcanic soil, provide for some of the best produce in the world. Quality is the rule, not the exception for Idaho agriculture!
Today, agriculture is still Idaho's strongest, largest industry. It is the lifeblood of our rural communities, and is still a big part of our urban areas. In the past, nearly 90% of Idaho's population lived on farms. Today, less than 2% of our people still work the land. Amazing how so few farmers can produce so much food! Idaho exports have been shattering records for the past two years, and topped $2.2 billion last year. The total value of Idaho agriculture in 2012 was a staggering $7.7 billion! At least 1 in 12 jobs nationwide is tied to agriculture, and that figure is even higher in Idaho. The success of Idaho agriculture benefits everyone!
Like farmers everywhere, Idaho farmers are innovative and inventive, and use the latest in agricultural technology to increase their output and improve the efficiency of their operations. In an era where the world population is booming, farmers rely upon new seeds, fertilizers, and farming methods that will allow them to produce increasing amounts of food to feed the growing populations around the world.
Without a doubt, farmers and ranchers are among the hardest-working people you will ever meet. Their perseverance and dedication has made the difference in their success despite rising input costs, unpredictable weather, and a changing physical landscape. Farmers and ranchers consider it a tremendous honor to provide the food and ag products that ensure our nation's health, happiness and security. They pass on to new generations their love of the land, and faith in the forces that can give life to their crops.
Please remember how important our nation's farmers and ranchers are to you and your families, on National Ag Day and every day.
For more information, visit the National Ag Day website at : http://www.agday.org/