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The agricultural industry still drives Nebraska

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Steve Wellman, Director

Nebraska Department of Agriculture

LINCOLN — Many things have changed over the past decade, but at least one thing remains unchanged — the importance of agriculture in Nebraska.

We live in a state where agriculture is our number one industry. 

We know that it takes more than farmers and ranchers to make our food possible. One in four jobs are related to agriculture. 

National Ag Week is happening March 22-28. Since agriculture is Nebraska’s number one industry, ag week is a good time to have a conversation about agriculture and recognize and thank the people behind the food, feed and fuel we depend on every day. 

When agriculture does well, our state does well. Even after last year’s challenges with blizzards, flooding, low prices, etc., Nebraskans pulled together. The dedication, resourcefulness and resiliency of Nebraska ag producers helped keep the state’s ag industry strong. These top national rankings from the U.S. Department of Agriculture show what a strong Nebraska ag industry looks like.

Nebraska is first in the nation in beef and veal exports (2018), first in Great Northern bean production (2018) and first in popcorn production (2017). We are second in the nation for: all cattle and calves (Jan. 1, 2020); all cattle on feed (Jan. 1, 2020); commercial red meat production (2019); and ethanol production (Jan. 2019). 

Nebraska also has a reliable supply of corn (third in the nation—2019) and soybeans (fourth in the nation—2019) for livestock feed and renewable fuels. All of these rankings and more make Nebraska agriculture worth celebrating. 

To highlight how important agriculture is to our economy, just look at the numbers. Nebraska’s ag industry adds more than $21 billion a year to the state’s economy (2018). Ag exports, $6.8 billion of that number, are only part of the story. Every dollar in ag exports generates $1.28 in economic activities such as transportation, finance, warehousing and production. 

Even with all of Nebraska’s top national rankings in agriculture, there is room to grow and many ways to do it. For example, Nebraska agriculture continues to grow and add value by expanding livestock production, attracting investments and business expansions, and growing international trade. 

International trade is particularly encouraging as Nebraska supports several trade missions and hosts many international groups every year. Last year, the Department of Agriculture team promoted Nebraska’s world-class crops and livestock during several trade missions led by Gov. Pete Ricketts including trips to Mexico, Vietnam, Japan and Germany. 

Since Nebraska farmers and ranchers produce more food than we use, we need to continue to help expand our domestic and international markets for their products. Nebraska farmers and ranchers continue to increase their production while conserving our natural resources. Their safe, high quality food products fill our plates and fuel tanks here and around the world. We’ve started 2020 with good news about trade including the passage of USMCA (U.S.-Mexico-Canada agreement) and a phase-one trade deal with China. 

International trade is also a good opportunity to share the story of Nebraska agriculture. A story that needs to be told on the home front, as well. I can share that story, as I’ve been involved with agriculture my whole life. Since one in four jobs in Nebraska are related to agriculture, others are stepping up and talking about Nebraska agriculture, too. 

Agriculture touches everyone’s lives and connects all of us somehow. That’s why sharing information about agriculture is so important. It helps people understand that agriculture is more than farming. It takes a whole industry of people to grow your food and get it to your table.  

The entire agriculture industry, all the way to the grocery store, are vital links in a chain that brings food to Nebraskans, Americans and millions of people around the world.

National Ag Week is a good time to reflect – and be grateful for – agriculture and the important role it plays in our daily lives. It’s also a good time to recognize and show appreciation to the people who provide the food, feed and fuel that we depend on every day. 

Thank you for letting me use National Ag Week as an opportunity to shine a spotlight on Nebraska agriculture. During this week and always, remember to thank the farmers, ranchers and ag industry for providing us with the food,