From Greg Ibach, Director, Nebraska Department of Agriculture
Nebraska agriculture has a great deal to celebrate during National Ag Week 2013. March 17 through 23, we pause to recognize Nebraska’s diverse agriculture industry, which includes a broad range of crop and livestock production, as well as related agribusiness industries. Agriculture supports our economy and provides the fiber of our culture, from the Panhandle to the urban landscapes of Lincoln and Omaha. It impacts each and every Nebraska citizen, and so a week-long celebration seems appropriate.
Nebraska is the 3rd largest agriculture-producing state in the nation, and the 5th most important agricultural exporting state. We rank in the top few states for production in many categories, including red meat, cattle, hogs, corn, wheat and soybeans, alfalfa and dry edible beans, to name a few. Through our global presence, “from Nebraska” is recognized as a premium category of U.S. agricultural products.
Even as we celebrate our success and accomplishments, we are looking forward, fostering a vision for Nebraska agriculture’s future. That vision includes career opportunities for students, whether they come from farms, ranches or urban areas. As Nebraska focuses on our natural strengths and resources to provide the food, feed, fiber and fuel to meet the demands of a growing world population, the employment field for agriculture and agriculture-related jobs is exploding. This includes traditional farming and ranching roles, as well as a new wave of careers that address food safety, consumer communication, transportation, industrial products and more.
We can use these new career opportunities to help us build strong rural communities, if we are strategic about building upon our strong agricultural base. With 93 percent of Nebraska’s land area already devoted to farming and ranching, adding capacity and jobs will require us to look for new ways to add value to our already-successful baseline grain and livestock production sectors. This means layering additional livestock production, food processing, and agricultural manufacturing at locations throughout the state. By focusing on our agricultural base and moving up the value chain, we will create jobs that make sense for the rural parts of Nebraska.
Agricultural economic development is becoming a focused growth area. It truly is making this an exciting time to be involved in our industry. This Ag Week, and every week, I am proud to be a part of it. I hope you share my pride in or state’s economic backbone. Together let us celebrate and support the growth and evolution of our heritage and future, Nebraska Agriculture.