Americans celebrate holidays with food, spending a total of nearly $14 billion each year, according to the American Farm Bureau Foundation. The Fourth of July — Independence Day — will be no exception, with the purchase of picnic provisions expected to surpass $6.7 billion.
Arguably the top “Fourth” food tradition is the customary American barbecue with all the fixings. Whether you will be grilling specially seasoned burgers, searing sirloins to perfection, or home-churning vanilla ice cream, Kansas farmers and ranchers have a seat at your family table this holiday, as well as the other 364 days a year.
Roughly 58,569 Kansas farms generated more than $18.7 billion in agriculture output in 2017 per the Kansas Department of Agriculture. And, Kansas farmers, ranchers and agribusinesses are feeding the world. Kansas exported over $3.8 billion in agricultural products in 2019, including meat, cereals, oil seed and dairy products.
If you were born, raised, and have lived most of your life here, you’ve learned that Kansas is the 34th state with our statehood occurring in 1861. In grade school you were taught that the state bird is the western meadowlark and that our nickname, the Sunflower State, came about because the native North American plant can be found growing in every Kansas county. But, you may not have learned the significance of Kansas agriculture and how it drives our state’s economy. Here are a few examples:
- Agriculture is the largest economic driver in Kansas, valued at nearly $65.7 billion in 2017.
- Kansas is one of the fastest growing dairy regions in the United States and is the 16th-ranked dairy state for milk production and home to 160,000 dairy cows on more than 300 dairy farms.
- Milk processing capacity in Kansas has grown significantly in recent years, and now 75% of the milk produced in Kansas stays in the state for processing (and for making your home-churned ice cream.)
- Beef and beef product exports from Kansas have accounted for 17%-19% of total U.S. beef exports for each of the last five years.
- Meat accounts for nearly 40% of the ag exports from Kansas.
- Kansas ranks first in grain sorghum production, growing almost 64% of the nation’s crop.
- Kansas leads the nation in winter wheat production, growing more than 23% of the nation’s crop.
- Our state ranks third in cattle production and beef processing.
- Kansas is ranked fourth in sunflower production, which includes oil products and seeds for human and animal consumption.
- In Kansas, there are 45,759,319 acres of farmland, which accounts for 87.5% of all Kansas land. More than 21 million acres in Kansas is harvested for crops and over 14 million is pastureland for grazing animals.
- The agriculture sector in Kansas employs more than 254,000 people through direct, indirect and induced effect careers, or almost 13% of the entire workforce in the state.
This Fourth of July, as we celebrate our independence and the American way of life, from this veteran’s perspective, I salute and thank Kansas farmers and ranchers for their contributions to our state, our country, and to the world.
Kansas agriculture facts from the Kansas Department of Agriculture, https://agriculture.ks.gov.
Lee Tafanelli is Chief Executive Officer of Kansas Electric Cooperatives, Inc. in Topeka.