Recently I had the opportunity to tour Utah agriculture with the Utah Farm Bureau Federation as part of the Utah Young Farmers and Ranchers (YF&R). From when we started in Salt Lake City listening to representatives, senators and keynote speakers, to the long drives covering nearly 600 miles in three days, I not only felt a sense of pride for the industry, I learned, felt and sympathized with many producers from large operations to backyard farms.
I felt the passion of every individual on the tour and every operation we visited. The faith and hope of agriculture is unmatched to any other industry. However it is not about the money earned or the amount of land owned at the end of the day. It is about the strong family connections within the industry that makes it so unique. Recently the industry that feeds the world has been scrutinized within the media and state dignitaries.
March 20 was declared “Meat Out” day by Colorado Gov. Jared Polis. The movement was to decrease meat consumption and encourage plant-based diets.
Nebraska Gov. Pete Ricketts fought back and declared March 20 as “Meat on the Menu Day.” Rickets said, “That (Meat Out) is a direct attack on our way of life here in Nebraska.” It is not only the way of life for Colorado’s neighbor to the east, but it is the No. 1 export in nine other states. The beef industry ranks in the top five in 20 states and combined is worth $66.2 billion dollars. It is the largest industry within agriculture.
Utah generates $60.2 million from the beef industry. While Utah has a diverse agricultural sector, 69% of Utah’s farm receipts comes from livestock, according to the USDA. There are more than 18,000 family farms operating across 11 million acres of Utah land.
The “Meat Out” movement does not hurt the large operations with thousands of head, acres, or exports, but what it does hurt is your friends, family, neighbors, and most importantly it affects the small family farm operations around your town. The same operations that support local economies with fresh meat, supports local economies by buying and selling locally, as well as the young farmers raising families within the industry.
It is with a strong foundation laid before us from previous generations that we will see growth. Growth in the agricultural industry, communities, state and national dealings. By canceling agriculture and boycotting agricultural products consequences will be faced. These consequences are passed onto consumers as well as producers.
The Washington Post credits only 7.8 cents of every dollar spent on food in America goes back to the farmer. The drive for the industry is not towards the dollar but a way of life you can not obtain through the internet.
Nursing a newborn animal back to health, improving the land for beneficial use of animals, wildlife and communities, learning from mistakes day in and day out, trying new techniques and learning from others and feeding a growing world is the passion and heart of the agricultural industry. As a nation we must support local farmers and ranchers, acknowledge the sacrifice from producers, and overall respect the animals by giving them the best possible life and respecting their sacrifice for us.
E. M. Tiffany wrote “I believe in the future of agriculture, with a faith born not of words but of deeds – I believe that American agriculture can and will hold true to the best traditions of our national life and that I can exert an influence in my home and community which will stand solid for my part in that inspiring task.”