“If you eat, you are involved in agriculture…and I don’t think that leaves any of us out,” booms Orion Samuelson, a legendary radio announcer who is nicknamed the “Voice of Agriculture” after 60 years on air as he approaches his 87th birthday next week.
Every spring, we take this week — #NationalAgWeek — to show our appreciation for the American ag industry that provides us with a safe, abundant supply of food, fiber and fuel. No matter where we live, we should be thankful every day for these contributions we truly couldn’t live without.
CORN FUELS SOUTH DAKOTA
As farmers across our state prepare to plant another new crop, we recognize the value of American agriculture grown right here in South Dakota. Farming and ranching play a leading role in making ag our state’s largest industry in providing income, jobs and taxes paid. At about 30%, ag does more in the state than the manufacturing and government sectors combined.
Out of all ag categories, corn production is the largest contributor to our state’s economy. In fact, last year South Dakota corn farmers grew an average of 162 bushels per acre, which is a new record! All during the pandemic!
Over 60% of South Dakota’s annual corn crop is processed at one of our 16 biorefineries to become gallons of ethanol fuel and its associated co-products. About 22% goes into feed for our state’s livestock. And 14% is stored in bins as carry-over, making us the "warehouse of the world." In addition, we also exported 193 million bushels last year. Read "4 Reasons to Fall in LOVE with SD farmers" here.
ENOUGH FOOD FOR ALL AFTER ALL
The sudden arrival of the pandemic last spring led to initial concerns over food supply (and toilet paper?!). However, it quickly became apparent that agriculture had plenty. It was simply a matter of the farm-to-fork supply chain needing time to adjust accordingly to the disruptions caused by COVID-19.
For many of us in the U.S., it was the first time facing a potential food scarcity. Most of us are guilty of taking for granted that food would always be there — with plenty enough to go around and available whenever we wanted. Of course, not everyone enjoys this luxury, but our fears became more pronounced as the pandemic impacted distribution.
As uncertainty and confusion caused ripples that were felt locally and globally, our nation quickly determined how to proceed. Along with our brave healthcare workers, many in the ag industry were also classified as “essential” to our economy, which included factory workers and grocery store employees.
Without missing a beat, families of farmers, ranchers, farmworkers and others involved in the agribusiness industry continued to grow and harvest as they have for decades…long before the words “quarantine” and “unprecedented” became part of our daily lingo.
PROBLEMS TURNED INTO POSITIVES
From farm to fork, every member of the food supply chain modified their traditional methods to adapt to COVID-19’s challenges. Farmers sold directly to local consumers. Packing plants scrambled to stay operational while still being a safe place for their workers. Ethanol plants in our state switched to producing sanitizer and dry ice to help provide these critical supplies for our country.
Grocery stores and restaurants discovered new ways to get food into our hands…with online ordering, curbside delivery and even door-to-door delivery services.
And while many of us suddenly found ourselves with more time at home, and therefore, more time to plan meals and cook, we turned to the internet to fill our free time and discovered recipes, and for some, a love for cooking or baking, and a way to fulfill our souls and our stomachs. Read how corn-fed beef on our plate supports our state.
It seems the pandemic made us all more aware of how food makes its way from farm to fork. That awareness and appreciation should continue even as — and after — our world returns to its pre-pandemic ways.
As you click “add to cart” on your grocery store’s app from your phone, or grab that gallon of milk off the store shelves, take a minute to think of — and silently thank — all those who made that moment possible. Read more about being thankful for the tradition of holiday meals like Thanksgiving.
From our busiest city highways to our quietest rural roads, there are people working all along the way to move food and other ag products from our state’s farms through the supply chain until it ends up in our shopping cart and is brought into our home.
FARMING FOR THE FUTURE
Progress in production agriculture over the years has allowed today’s family farm to feed 166 people a year. Looking back to 1960, a farmer could only 26 people.
While farmers proved they could maintain production during a pandemic, they face future challenges from growing population and rising prosperity across our country and the entire planet.
Global population is forecast to grow 2.2 billion by 2050, so our farmers will have to find a way to grow about 70% more food than they already do now. What will help farmers get more production from the same land?
In addition to providing the world’s supply of food, fiber and fuel, today’s farmers also do their best to protect the land, livestock and water. Because without those resources, life as we know it is not sustainable.
Thank you, South Dakota farmers and ranchers! Here’s to a safe planting season!