Those who don’t understand agriculture often overlook its importance.
Many people only think about farmers and ranchers supplying food, but agriculture has a hand in much, much more. Farms are a part of the production of fiber, fuel, starch, oils, solvents, dyes, resins, proteins, specialty chemicals and pharmaceuticals. I’d lay odds there isn’t a single person in the U.S. who does not use something each and every day that has a tie to some form of agriculture.
Farms and ranches are bound to the local economy because they have to spend money to try and make money, which helps other businesses keep their doors open.
There are many, many jobs in the agricultural industry that aren’t “on the farm,” jobs. These jobs are held by the guys and gals who work at the feed mills, the farm supply stores, veterinary clinics, tire shops, auto parts stores, tractor, truck and auto dealerships, and so on. My own job is also dependant on farmers and ranchers.
People, in my opinion, don’t understand how one farm makes a difference in a community.
For example, a farm lays off a couple of hired hands because of tough economic times. Those hands and their families, intern, then have a lower standard of living, and less money to spend at local businesses, such as grocery stores, restaurants and other retailers, which means less income for the business. With less business, retailers may be faced with the choice to cut hours or lay off a worker, resulting in that worker also having a lower standard of living, meaning they will also spend less at local businesses. We now have three, or more, families who have to cut corners to get by, meaning they are going to be spending less, which causes even more businesses to make cuts and potentially reduce workforce even more.
Since business is a little slow, that means revenues are slow for government entities that depend on funding from sales taxes for things like infrastructure improvements, such as roads, as well as for salaries for workers. No money for repairs to roads means a need for fewer employees.
Farmers and ranchers typically pay more in annual property and personal taxes than their city-dwelling neighbors who may only pay taxes on their real estate and motor vehicles. Farmers pay those taxes, as well as taxes on livestock, trailers, tractors and implements.
Things considered “luxury items,” such as newspaper and magazine subscriptions, cable or satellite TV, and non-essential utilities, such as Internet access or telephone service, are also on the chopping block in hard economic times. A dinner out? Not unless it’s from the $1 menu and there’s a buy one, get one coupon. Fewer customers for these businesses and services, means less money for that business and cuts will have to be made somewhere to stay in the black; it’s a continuous cycle.
Agriculture is crucial in this county and it’s disheartening to see blatant disregard for it in our rural communities. People seem to forget agriculture is often the top industry for many of our small towns, often times the only industry, and as industries begin to fall, so does the economy.
We should continue to advocate for agriculture in our hometowns, and if a business or individual doesn’t want to stand up for our way of life, maybe they don’t need our business anymore.
Julie Turner-Crawford is a native of Dallas County, Mo., where she grew up on her family’s farm. She is a graduate of Missouri State University. To contact Julie, call 1-866-532-1960 or by email at [email protected]