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Weekly News From Secretary Larry Gabriel

National Ag Week  --  3/19/06

Agriculture is 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 population growth.

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.

The only way to guarantee failure is to not try. Larry Gabriel




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