Posted By: Steve Dick
As Thanksgiving approaches, it is a good time to step back and reflect on the year. More than any other holiday, food plays a central role in our Thanksgiving celebrations, so it is only appropriate to think about the state of our food supply and those who produce the food that eventually makes it to our tables each day.
I am thankful to live in a state where agriculture and livestock production are recognized as important to communities and the state's economy. In fact, last week, Governor Mike Rounds signed a proclamation declaring Nov. 21 as "Thank a Farmer and Rancher Day" in recognition of the work that the 31,000 farm and ranch families in our state do each day to deliver a safe, nutritious and affordable food supply.
South Dakota farmers have never been more productive - each year, they produce more food with the same amount of land and animals. This year's corn and soybean harvest is the largest ever. However, the ideal weather conditions that helped this bumper crop develop changed during harvest. The wettest October in history means that many farmers will spend Thanksgiving Day in their combines trying to finish 2009 corn harvest.
The state's dairy farmers are also increasing their productivity and raising South Dakota's profile in the nation's dairy production. But, they and other livestock producers have faced challenging economic conditions for many months. Each day, it is costing dairy producers more to care for their cows than they receive for the milk that is produced.
Regardless of the weather and economic challenges, South Dakota's farm and ranch families continue to spend each day caring for their land and animals. We should all be thankful to these families for their dedication to not only their farms and ranches, but also to the communities in which they live.
Despite these productivity gains, the USDA recently released a report stating that hunger is at its highest level ever in the United States. That means there is still a tremendous amount of work to be done to ensure that the food produced by farmers makes it to the dinner tables of families across the country.
South Dakota pork producers have launched a new program that will help feed South Dakota families in need. Last month, Ag United and the Community Food Banks of South Dakota announced the "From Our Families to Your Family" in which South Dakota pork producers will donate 50 hogs that will be processed into ground pork and distributed to families throughout the state. These 50 hogs will provide about 7,500 pounds of meat that will feed about 4,000 families.
And, last week, food and agriculture leaders from across the state took a huge step in helping solve some of the greatest challenges in the food chain. The South Dakota Food Chain Roundtable brought together more than 60 producers, processors, foodservice professionals and many others to identify ways to continue delivering a safe, affordable and nutritious food supply to South Dakotans and beyond. It was a groundbreaking event and we look forward to continued cooperation among these leaders and their organizations to address the challenges we face.
Best wishes to you and your family for a Happy Thanksgiving.