February 14, 2011

Idaho Farmers And Ranchers Grow Our Economy

Guest column submitted by U.S. Senator Mike Crapo

Idaho is home to more than 25,000 farms and ranches growing 185 different commodities. Many of the farm families that comprise Idaho agriculture have persevered through great adversity, difficult economic times and natural disasters to help sustain our economy and provide a sector of resilience, especially during our nation's economic difficulty.

The contribution of Idaho farmers and ranchers to our economy and communities is considerable. In a recently released report, University of Idaho agricultural economists indicated that Idaho's 2010 net farm income is estimated to be $1.44 billion, an increase of 55 percent from 2009 levels. Idaho agriculture cash receipts increased 12 percent to $5.78 billion. The strong performance is across many segments. Despite recent challenges within the dairy industry, Idaho milk revenue increased 36 percent to an estimated $1.95 billion. Revenue from cattle and calves increased 16 percent to $1.11 billion. Dry bean revenue jumped 13 percent. Greenhouse and nursery revenues received a 12 percent boost, and wheat was estimated to increase 6 percent. Onion revenues rose an astounding 93 percent to $76.2 million.

Farmers and ranchers strengthen our communities. Farm families live and work on or near their farms, contributing financially to local businesses and municipalities and supporting their communities through involvement in local organizations and activities. They pump revenue back into their communities through purchases of implements and services from area businesses and supporting public services and schools. Farm families provide and support local jobs. For 2009, Idaho agriculture businesses were estimated to support 137,000 jobs and $3.5 billion in wages. Farmers and ranchers also contribute indirectly to supporting jobs through value added sectors, exports and farmer related services. Idaho agribusiness exports have been estimated to amount to 26 percent of Idaho's exports, and Idaho exports nearly $1.5 billion in food and agriculture products.

We can strengthen our economy and nation by removing impediments to growth. For example, we must aggressively obtain more market opportunities for farm families through advancement of the pending free trade agreements with Colombia, Panama, South Korea and others that are expected to boost U.S. agriculture exports. I recently co-sponsored a Sense of the Senate resolution calling for the immediate approval of these important trade agreements. We must also review our tax code. Permanently and fully eliminating the Death Tax, an especially burdensome penalty for family farmers in rural states, will better prevent the sell-off of productive farmland to pay the tax bill when a loved one is lost. Additionally, as Congress prepares to rewrite the Farm Bill, producers deserve a business environment that protects necessary freedoms to produce and thrive while also providing the necessary assistance to weather tough times. Proper investment in research is also important to ensure that producers can meet the needs of an increasing population while facing greater pressure to grow more on less land. We must also rein in overly-burdensome regulations to prevent the unfortunate consequence of pushing the best stewards off the land.

Nationally, Idaho ranks in the top ten in 26 crops and livestock, including ranking first in potato, trout, Austrian Winter Peas, organic barley for grain seed and organic hay production. Idaho farmers and ranchers are propelling our economy and deserve an environment that best enables them to continue to grow and strengthen our communities. Our economy will further reap the harvest of productive conditions.

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