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A thank you to American agriculture
America’s farmers, ranchers, and growers are some of our nation’s greatest assets. Not only do we rely on American agriculture for our food, feed, fiber, and fuel, our agricultural producers preserve our environment, and help drive our national economy.
As I travel the country and speak with audiences of all sorts, I often ask folks when they last took a moment to thank or appreciate a farmer. The truth is that we owe a debt of gratitude to the hard-working men and women who provide us -- and much of the world -- with a safe, reliable, affordable, and abundant food supply.
March 15 was celebrated as National Agriculture Day -- a great time to consider the important contributions that American agriculture makes to our lives.
Agriculture is responsible for one out of every 12 jobs in America. And while many sectors of our economy are running trade deficits, American agriculture has enjoyed a trade surplus for nearly 50 years. This year, we expect a record agricultural trade surplus worth more than $47 billion and record agricultural exports that will help support more than 1 million jobs across the nation.
What’s more, America’s farmers and ranchers are the most productive in the world -- helping support the strength and prosperity of our nation as a whole. American families spend only six or seven cents out of every dollar on food -- less than almost any other nation and half as much as in Japan or Italy. That means we have more to spend on a nicer home, to save for retirement, or to fund our children’s college education.
And America’s farmers have taken extraordinary steps to take care of our nation’s natural resources. In the last 30 years alone, the U.S. Department of Agriculture has worked to help producers reduce soil erosion by more than 40 percent and agriculture has gone from being the leading cause of wetland loss to leading the entire nation in wetland restoration efforts. Our farms act as carbon sinks, mitigating the impact of global warming. Land that remains in farming, pasture, or forest helps clean the water we drink and the air we breathe.
For generations, America’s farmers and ranchers have helped our nation stay strong. Today -- through the production of renewable energy like wind and biofuels -- they are increasingly helping to build a vital link to our country’s energy independence.
This week -- National Agriculture Week -- please take time to recognize the important work our farmers and ranchers do for this country and the world and say, simply, “thank you.”
Tom Vilsack is the agriculture secretary for the U.S. Department of Agriculture.
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