The week of March 14-20 is National Agriculture Week. Each year, this week gives us an opportunity to pay tribute to Nebraska’s hard working, dedicated farmers and ranchers, while raising awareness of how important the agricultural industry is to our state, our nation and our world.
This year, the Nebraska Department of Agriculture has selected “Nebraska Agriculture: Thank a Farmer” as the theme for our celebration. It is a fitting tribute to the farmers and ranchers whose passion for the agricultural industry I witness firsthand throughout our great state every day. I encourage all Nebraskan’s to offer a word of appreciation to those who work so hard to raise the food, fuel and fiber on which we all rely.
Besides putting food on our plates and fuel in our vehicles, our farmers and ranchers are an important component of our economy. Agriculture is our state’s number one industry. It contributed over $17 billion into our economy last year, $3 billion more than the previous year. One in three jobs in our state is tied to agriculture. That’s an increase in the last decade from one in four jobs.
While we excel in a number of categories, in 2009 we again ranked first in the nation for our commercial red meat production. The name “Nebraska” continues to gain visibility and value as its own brand in the international marketplace. The global recession has had an impact on demand, but Nebraska beef, pork and other products continue to move in the international marketplace. We anticipate the global demand for high-quality agricultural products from Nebraska to gain momentum in the coming years, which in turn benefits our state’s economy as every dollar in agricultural exports generates $1.40 in economic activity.
Nebraska’s farmers not only produce high-quality food, they also produce high-quality fuel. Again last year, Nebraska’s ethanol industry ranked second nationwide in production capacity with 23 operating plants with a production capacity of 1.8 billion gallons, and utilizing over 40% of the state’s corn crop. Our producers are also considering the utilization of their land for wind energy production. These are just two examples of the variety of ways the agricultural industry contributes to our overall economic stability.
As we gather around our tables for our evening meals, I encourage you to take a moment to thank the farmer who has brought that meal to you and contributes to an industry that helps drive our state economy. Without their hard work, dedication and passion, the food on your dinner plate, and our economic future, might look extremely different.
Please take a moment this week and this year to thank Nebraska’s farmers and ranchers for their contributions to our great state.
-Greg Ibach, Director, Nebraska Department of Agriculture