OPINION: This Harvest Season, Thank an Idaho FarmerWednesday September 27, 2023
Fall is a season of transition.
The summer heat and longer days start to fade, and the crisp air and changing leaves begin to arrive. The kids are back in school, football is back on weekends, and the holiday season is right around the corner.
While all of this is true, to me, fall also means the start of another endeavor: harvest season.
Idaho has been, currently is, and will always be an agriculture state. It is what we are known for. Ask anyone what they think of when they think of Idaho – more than likely their first response will be potatoes. This is understandable, as each year Idaho grows roughly 14 billion pounds of potatoes, enough to earn us the #1 spot for potato production in the country.
But contrary to popular belief, Idaho is also a top contributor of more than just potatoes. Idaho is:
- Ranked #1 in barley, peppermint, and alfalfa hay production.
- The 2nd largest grower of sugar beets and hops.
- The 3rd largest producer of milk and cheese.
- Ranked 4th in the production of onions, peas, spring wheat, and lentils.
The Gem State ranks in the top ten in the nation for 30 different agriculture commodities. Our farmers are the top exporters of many products that Americans rely on. The Idaho potato is world-famous for a reason – our potato farmers help feed the world.
It’s also important to note that unlike many of the traditional farm states in the Midwest, most of Idaho’s farms are not owned by a single entity. Idaho is home to nearly 25,000 individual farms and ranches. I am among that number – as a fourth-generation cattle rancher, my family is still running our cattle ranch in Oakley that was first established in the 1800’s by my great-grandfather.
Our mom-and-pop operations are the backbone of our agriculture industry; they have a direct or indirect effect in nearly every avenue, from our state economy to our everyday way of life. Idaho’s farming operations equate to more than 11.5 million acres of Idaho land that is used to raise cattle and grow crops for our country. These acres make an impact – 18% of Idaho’s total economic output is from agribusiness alone.
Idaho’s ag industry is only getting better. Last year, Idaho’s net farm income was estimated to be more than $3 billion – a 56% increase from 2021 and the highest net income Idaho has seen in recorded history. 2022 also saw the highest milk revenues ever at $4.2 billion, as well as cattle revenues, which came in at $1.9 billion.
We depend on our farmers and ranchers for more than food, too. One out of every eight jobs in Idaho is related to agriculture, whether it’s direct or indirect, one out of every six dollars in sales in our state was related to agriculture.
The importance of agriculture in Idaho cannot be overstated. Our farmers work hard year-round, from sunup to sundown, to feed our growing population. Idaho’s elected leaders understand the value of our farmers. Idaho continues to be proactive in supporting programs that improve the quality of our soil, water, and air, to ensure a sustainable, resilient, and economically viable agricultural system.
Idaho has been discovered. There are people moving to the Gem State every day who like the way we live and want to be a part of it. But what we all must keep in mind is that while growth is necessary, so is maintaining a viable industry and a historic part of Idaho’s identity. Our farm acres should be respected for the bounty they provide. We need our farmers and ranchers – the world needs Idaho ag producers.
So, this harvest season, let’s keep our agribusinesses in mind. Next time you gather friends and family for a backyard barbecue, thank an Idaho rancher. Next time you’re pouring your kids a glass of milk, thank an Idaho dairyman. Next time you’re enjoying a hot, fresh French fry – thank an Idaho farmer.