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Ag Day tribute to farmers, ranchers
By James B. Douglas
I speak for the people working for the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA). We all are proud to be partners with the men and women who farm and ranch in Texas. Agriculture is an honorable profession and we are honored to do our part to help. We salute you on Ag Day, March 19.
“Generations Nourishing Generations” is the theme for this year’s Ag Day. Our country’s farmers and ranchers work hard to provide food and clothing for our country and the world. Their dedication is an inspiration to us and to the next generation of farmers and ranchers. Without them, we would not have the abundant food supply, the fiber, and the fuel we depend on daily.
Agriculture involves sacrifice. As a youngster on the farm, the most immediate sacrifice noticed is sleep. Getting up early and working hard until sundown is not something that always comes easy ... it usually has to be learned ... from your parents or your grandparents.
That sacrifice continues as you grow. Or if you start to farm later in life, you encounter it immediately when you take charge of your operation ... long, hard hours, dripping sweat in the soil and taking a risk when needed to doctor an animal, weld an implement, or finance next year’s planting.
According to recent USDA studies, the agricultural sector right now remains a bright spot in terms of economic stability and growth and there is a strong demand for U.S. agricultural products. Generation after generation of agricultural producers in Texas are getting up early every day to keep this sector of the economy healthy, providing jobs and income for both rural and urban families and communities.
In 1960, each U.S. farmer provided food for about 25 people. Today, each U.S. farmer feeds more than 144 people, an increase of more than 500 percent. Research and new technologies have boosted production, but someone still has to go outdoors and make things grow. Without regard for the wind, rain, snow, freeze, fire, and drought ... the farmer and the ranchers can be found tending the crops, flock, or herd, and doing it well. Even with last season’s severe weather and natural disasters, American farmers and ranchers have still prevailed to get the food and fuel to market.
Let’s thank these men and women for a job well done. Agriculture is America’s No. 1 export, and critical to sustaining a healthy economy. In our state alone, one out of every seven working Texans is employed in an agriculture-related job. During 2011, Texas ranked No. 1 in the nation for cotton, hides and skins, and beef and veal exports. According to the most recent Census of Agriculture, Texas has more than 130 million acres dedicated to agricultural production.
Frankly, it’s easy to take agriculture for granted in America. Our food is readily accessible and very safe. For this, we’re unbelievably fortunate ... but that doesn’t mean we don’t have an obligation to recognize who makes it possible.
This National Ag Day on March 19 is a good time to reflect -- and be grateful for -- American agriculture!
To find more Ag Day information and events, visit the sponsoring Agricultural Council of America at www.agday.org.
James B. Douglas is the acting state executive director for the USDA -- Farm Service Agency.
Editor’s note: 2013 National Ag Week is celebrated March 17-23.
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