In a normal year, many of us in agriculture would be attending National Ag Day events this week, gathering together to celebrate farmers’ and ranchers’ contributions to America’s quality of life, economy, sustainability and even national security. But this is not a normal year, and there is no gathering together.
Current events have many Americans thinking about farmers more than ever as everyone stocks up on staple foods or our favorite snacks and hunkers down to ride out COVID-19. As we always do, farmers and ranchers will be at work in our fields, barns and orchards, making sure there’s enough food for everyone, at the same time that we take precautions to keep ourselves, our families and our farm workers safe.
Of course, we can’t do it alone. Farmers and ranchers can grow as much food as possible, but it doesn’t matter unless that food gets packaged, shipped and stocked in stores. So, this year, another difference in our Ag Day celebration seems timely and appropriate. Instead of just focusing on the work of farmers and ranchers, I want to “share the love” and shine a spotlight on the many other members of the food chain who deserve recognition.
Many farmers and ranchers wouldn’t have a market for what we grow without our partners on the cooperative and processing side of the supply chain. Farm Bureau at the national and state levels has been in touch with processing plants to make sure we are addressing any issues that could stand in the way of continuing to process and package our farmer members’ commodities into food products for shipment to distributors and stores. We are grateful to the employees working in those plants; their work is vital to keeping food moving to market.
Likewise, we are grateful to our nation’s meat inspectors and other food inspectors who have remained on the job to keep processing plants operational and ensure the continued safety of our food supply.
Truck drivers and other transportation workers who could be at home with their families are, instead, on the road, delivering for consumers and farmers. We are so thankful to them, their dispatchers, and others in the transportation industry for delivering the essentials we all depend on for survival.
Anyone who has been to the grocery store lately could understand why store employees might be feeling a bit exhausted and overwhelmed. The rush to stock up on food staples and snacks for self-distancing has had grocery stores over-run with anxious and sometimes unruly shoppers. Meanwhile, the shelves need constant restocking. We in agriculture thank all the grocery store workers who are putting service ahead of their own comfort—making sure that everyone can buy the food items that we grow on our farms and ranches.
We appreciate our farm workers, who are like members of our family. Many of them travel hundreds or thousands of miles and return year after year to work on our farms and ranches. We’re helping them stock up on food, reminding them to wash their hands, keeping them informed of other ways to prevent infection, encouraging them to stay home if they’re sick, and making sure they know that their health is the most important consideration. But we cannot produce our nation’s food supply without their help, and we are grateful for them.
And then farmers and ranchers are #stillfarming, producing the agricultural products that we all need and that bring such comfort to us at this time of uncertainty and concern for our families, friends, employees and neighbors.
Like farmers and ranchers, our supply chain partners in processing, transportation, retail and other sectors are on the job, feeding and supplying our fellow Americans. On this National Ag Day and every day, we are grateful for the work of all who play a part in bringing food to our tables.
Happy National Ag Day!
Vincent “Zippy” Duvall, a poultry, cattle and hay producer from Greene County, Georgia, is the 12th president of the American Farm Bureau Federation.