the most important industry in South Dakota. This
is the week we celebrate that fact. March 19
through 25 is National Ag Week.
South Dakota produces about $6 billion worth of
crops and livestock each year, but the total
economic impact of agriculture on the state's
economy is almost $17 billion, according to an
SDSU study in 2002.
These dollar amounts are significant. They impact
every person living in this state. But they don't
tell the whole story.
Not so long ago, some doubted that our industry
would be able to feed the world. They reasoned
that there is only so much arable land and fresh
water, and since most of that is already in use,
production will not be able to keep up with
Those people who doubted were mistaken. During the
last 40 years, food production has grown faster
than world population. There is no reason to
believe it won't continue.
According to the UN's Food and Agricultural
Organization, world food production must double by
2025 to feed the world. We can do that. We have
done it before.
Our farmers and ranchers are extremely productive
when we allow them to be. Americans spend less
than 10 percent of their income on food. No
country in the world can match that.
United States taxpayers work three times longer to
pay annual taxes than they work to pay for all the
food they buy each year. Even then, about 27
percent (96 billion pounds) of that food is thrown
away or wasted.
In addition to food, agriculture provides us with
many other products, such as: alternative fuels,
pharmaceuticals, surgical sutures, ointments,
latex gloves, x-ray film, gelatin for capsules,
heart valves, lumber, paints, brushes, tar paper,
dry wall, tool handles, lubricants, antifreeze,
tires, upholstery, adhesives, solvents,
detergents, paper, ink, film, shampoo, cosmetics,
lotions, fingernail polish, toothpaste, crayons,
textbooks, chalk, desks, pencils, clothing,
baseball bats, leather equipment, and shoes.
In addition to providing food security, cheap
food, and thousands of other products, our farmers
and ranchers contribute to the society in many
other ways. They are the best stewards of the
land. They provide food and habitat for 75 percent
of the nation's wildlife. Ninety percent are still
"family" farms and ranches that are producing the
next generation of rural Americans.
Today's farmers and ranchers are better educated
and more sophisticated than some traditional
"business people". Today's ag is expanding into
new products, developing specialty crops, and
improving methods of producing and using
traditional crops. Can they feed the future world?
Absolutely! A farmer can harvest enough wheat for
70 loaves of bread in 9 seconds.
All that we need is for the international
politicians to get out of the way, and let our
farmers and ranchers do what they do better than
anyone in the world.