A Message from AFBF President Zippy Duvall
Each spring we celebrate National Agriculture Day and National Agriculture Week. This celebration gives us a great opportunity to talk about the innovation and impact of our industry and the hard work farmers and ranchers put in every day of the year. This year’s theme was, ‘Food for Life,’ which speaks to why many people got into agriculture in the first place—to do good for our land and animals, our families and communities and our country. We take pride in knowing that the work we do on our farms and ranches reaches far beyond our fence rows.
With farmers and ranchers making up only two percent of the population in our country today, agriculture can get labeled as a small player when it comes to the whole business world. But we know what a big impact our industry has. America’s farmers and ranchers are a driving force in our economy, both directly and indirectly. The job numbers tell the story.
In 2017, agriculture and food sector jobs made up 11 percent of all U.S. employment, for a total of 21.6 million full- and part-time jobs. These may be in food manufacturing and retail, forestry and fishing, food service or clothing, textile and leather manufacturing. They may not be on or near a farm, but they are tied to agriculture. While only 2.6 million of these jobs are directly on-the-farm, full-time agriculture yields nearly ten-fold more jobs in the agriculture and food related industry, and those jobs help support millions more and boost our whole economy.
Agriculture’s impact on the U.S. job market doesn’t stop with industry-related employment either. Farmers and ranchers help support another 20 million jobs from money spent in related industries to farm and food industry wages spent in other sectors. When a farmer purchases equipment or fertilizer, those business purchases support jobs from production and manufacturing to research and development of new technology. Of course, we don’t just spend money on business expenses. When workers in ag-supported jobs spend their wages, that money goes to support millions of jobs up the supply chain.
No matter what your job may be, we all need to eat and we all spend money on food. We are blessed with an abundant, affordable food supply in this country, thanks to the ingenuity and efficiency of U.S. farmers and ranchers. Americans on average spend less than 10 percent of their income on food, which also means more money going back to work fueling our economy.
Our safe, affordable food supply doesn’t happen by accident—as farmers know all too well. It takes a lot of hard work, innovation and faith to produce the best food, fuel and fiber in the world, all in the face of unpredictable weather and ever-changing markets. But I can’t imagine a better job, a more fulfilling job or a more important one.
America’s farmers and ranchers are proud to grow food for life—the life of our people, our nation and our economy.
It’s important for farmers and ranchers every day to be out there, beyond the fencerows, telling our story and advocating for the policies that will protect our farms and the jobs that depend on us.
Looking for resources and information on agriculture? Visit the American Farm Bureau Federation’s Voice of Agriculture website for more food and farm facts and check out additional educational resources from the American Farm Bureau Foundation for Agriculture.
This column originally appeared in the 2019 June|July issue of Rural Route.