Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack stressed that every day of the year, farmers should be recognized for their contribution to the overall U.S. economy and providing food, beyond just National Ag Day, which was celebrated March 21.  

“I think we should be thankful every single day for what we have and never take for granted to do everything we can to make sure that we continue to maintain” farming operations of all sizes, he said at an event at USDA’s Whitten Building celebrating National Ag Day.

Nearly 20% of the country’s economic activity — $8.6 trillion is directly supported by the nearly 23 million jobs in the food and agricultural sector, according to a new report highlighted by the ag secretary. The 2023 Feeding the Economy report, released by 25 food and agriculture groups, said that when including those industries indirectly involved with food and agriculture, ag's employment extends to 46 million, or roughly 30% of the entire workforce of the United States.

Total agricultural economic output is up 22% since the 2019 report. All 50 states showed an increase in economic output this year compared to last, “largely reflecting a rebound in national economic activity,” the report said.

The largest gains were seen in Hawaii with a 31% boost, followed by North Dakota at 26%, New York at 23%, Nevada at 22% and Florida at 21%.

National Association of State Departments of Agriculture CEO Ted McKinney said the report “celebrates the collective impact that everyone working to grow, process and produce our food has on the economy.”

Manufacturing of agricultural productions also accounts for nearly one-fifth of total U.S. manufacturing jobs. “In manufacturing, more than twice as many Americans are manufacturing agricultural products as cars and trucks,” said Corn Refiners Association President and CEO John Bode.

Vilsack also noted that the report indicates that farmers are using 28% less land but have become nearly four times as productive over the span of his lifetime. “That’s really impressive. That is extraordinary,” said Vilsack, who is 72.

In a proclamation from the White House, President Joe Biden said, “There is a common spirit across America’s agricultural community: a respect for tradition, a drive to innovate and a commitment to never giving up — even when the going gets tough.” The proclamation also recognized the many challenges farmers face including “extreme weather, made worse by the climate crisis” and corporate consolidation.

The proclamation noted the Biden administration is encouraging antitrust agencies to focus on anti-competitive practices in agricultural markets and said, “corporate consolidation has reduced what small producers can get in exchange for their crops and livestock, lowering farmer incomes and workers’ paychecks.” The administration also said it is are working to secure the “right to repair so farmers can fix their own machinery and tractors.”

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In a statement, Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Michael Regan also used the day as an opportunity to thank farmers, ranchers and laborers for their efforts to produce food, fuel and fiber and said they’re on the “front lines of the climate crisis.”

“EPA is committed to working hand-in-hand with farmers and ranchers to protect public health and the environment,” Regan said, mentioning funding in the Inflation Reduction Act and the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law to “support climate-smart agriculture, provide relief to stressed borrowers and bolster conservation.”

In January, EPA’s Farm, Ranch & Rural Communities Advisory Committee held its first in-person meeting since 2016. “I’m looking forward to hearing from the committee over the next year about how EPA can support the agricultural community in reaching its climate mitigation and adaptation goals to ensure a more resilient food and agricultural system,” Regan said.

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