Thomas Jefferson once said, “Agriculture is our wisest pursuit, because it will in the end contribute most to real wealth, good morals and happiness.”
Here in Idaho, we know that firsthand. Agriculture is one of our largest, most important industries and a major part of our heritage. Over 40,000 Idahoans work in the ag industry and 20 percent of Idaho’s sales each year are generated by agriculture and food/beverage processing. On any given day, dairymen in the Magic Valley, wheat growers on the Palouse, and onion growers in Payette County are generating the food and beverages we need to survive and flourish.
Idaho agriculture is typically a family-centered industry, with farms and ranches often owned and worked by a single family and passed down from generation to generation. Agriculture inspires the kind of cultural values that define the best of Idaho – self-reliance, family cooperation, community trust, and true understanding of nature. As Idahoans, we can take pride in our ag industry – not just for its economic benefits, which are numerous, but also because of its unique place in preserving the Idaho spirit.
To sustain that spirit, the next generation of Idaho farmers and ranchers are hard at work, learning the trade from their moms and dads, friends and neighbors, and great leaders at organizations like FFA. FFA, which was founded as Future Farmers of America in 1928, is a national student organization dedicated to supporting and promoting agricultural education. FFA helps middle and high school students prepare for careers in business, science, horticulture, forestry, and many other diverse fields – making classroom instruction come to life through realistic, hands-on applications. Today, nearly 650,000 students are FFA members, making it one of the largest youth organizations in America.
Last week, I had the pleasure of meeting two young Idahoans who are taking a leadership role in FFA: Randy Clements of DuBois and Lindsey Sowell of Wilder. They are Idaho’s Student State Officers and they were in Washington, D.C., for FFA’s State Presidents’ Conference (SPC). SPC is an annual conference in which the Student State Officers from every state get together to advocate for agricultural education and share ideas.
I’ve had the pleasure of meeting FFA Student State Officers most years I’ve been in Congress. When I talk with these young leaders, I am excited for the future of Idaho agriculture and those who work in it. Lindsey and Randy are great examples. Lindsay’s family works in the dairy industry and Randy’s works in the beef industry. They both want to stay in agriculture and grow as leaders. We need them. As Randy told me and my staff, in the next 35 years, the world population will grow from 7.5 billion to 9.5 billion. That’s an extra 2 billion people to feed. Who will feed them? That seems like a great challenge, but it’s also a great opportunity. With future leaders like Lindsey and Randy, I know Idaho agriculture will be ready to seize that opportunity and grow even further.
To learn more about Idaho agriculture, please watch this great video produced by the Idaho State Department of Agriculture last year. See for yourself how Idaho’s farmers are contributing to our economy and our way of life. I’m proud of Idaho’s farmers and I will always be a strong advocate for them.