By RICHARD GUEBERT JR.
Illinois Farm Bureau President
The first day of spring historically coincides with National Ag Day each March.
As a farmer, I view it as the unofficial launch of the approaching planting season for Illinois farmers and those businesses who help get our raw product from field to table. Farmers of all sizes and commodities are ready to start their growing season and feed our customers locally, regionally, and globally. For those working in agriculture – Ag Day is every day as we continue to grow a crop to feed a growing world.
National Ag Day, which this year is Tuesday, March 22, offers the chance to recognize the role agriculture plays in providing safe, abundant, and affordable products, along with highlighting the essential role of agriculture in maintaining a strong economy and career opportunities that exist in the agriculture, food, and fiber sectors.
As Ag Day was happening two years ago, our focus was making sure those of us in agriculture could continue to work as the pandemic unfolded right before our eyes. What transpired over the next two years revealed the resiliency of our American food system while supply chains were challenged.
The food and agriculture industries’ vital roles in feeding Americans is well known, but their incredible impacts in feeding and growing the nation’s economy is less talked about. While farmers represent less than 2% of the population, we provide a tremendous value to the domestic food and economic sectors.
Two years later, our focus is on our fellow Ukraine farmers. Ukrainian farmers are just like us, and we hope and pray they can plant a crop, just like what we are preparing to do.
As the Ukraine conflict began several weeks ago, our commodity markets experienced market volatility, including fuel prices responsible for a large percentage of input costs. I again remind consumers, “farmers are price takers, not price makers.”
I continue to take calls from reporters wondering if Illinois farmers will pivot and plant more wheat this spring due to the concerns of the Ukrainian export market. We all took the role Ukraine farmers play in the world wheat export demand for granted. Ukraine farmers and the Black Sea region typically account for about 30% of world wheat exports and are a vital supplier of wheat to less-developed nations in the Middle East and Africa, among other destinations.
As for the opportunity for Illinois farmers to plant more wheat, our winter wheat is already in the ground, and the upper Plains would be better positioned to grow more wheat to fill the global demand due to the Ukraine conflict. Friendly reminder, not all climate and soil types are suited for certain crops – and this is especially true for wheat.
So, as we move through the coming days of this 2022 growing season, I want to leave you with this reminder: Agriculture continues to produce what is needed.
This story was distributed through a cooperative project between Illinois Farm Bureau and the Illinois Press Association. For more food and farming news, visit FarmWeekNow.com.