Thanksgiving is a time when Americans come together to celebrate a holiday that connects each and every one of us. During this truly American holiday, we all give thanks for the previous year’s blessings and look ahead to the future. While we may bring our own traditions and flavors to the table, Thanksgiving is a time for all of us to celebrate our country’s rich history.
It has always been a special holiday to me, but this past year I developed an even greater appreciation for all that goes in to producing the Thanksgiving meal. As Administrator of USDA’s Agricultural Marketing Service (AMS), I spent the last six months visiting with American farmers and learning about their businesses. In my conversations with American farmers and ranchers, I am always impressed by their work ethic, ingenuity, and dedication to making sure their customers get the best products. It’s no wonder that our nation's farmers were responsible for producing nearly 7.5 trillion pounds of turkey in 2012—nearly half the world’s supply!—and are leaders when it comes to many other foods regularly featured in Thanksgiving meals. In 2012, American farmers also produced 3.1 billion pounds of sweet corn and nearly 2.7 billion pounds of sweet potatoes.
At USDA, I am proud to lead an agency whose mission is to advance U.S. agricultural products by creating opportunities for producers. Whether by publishing critical market data, purchasing food for the National School Lunch Program and other feeding programs, or providing grading services that let producers promote the quality of their products to consumers, our agency serves all facets of American agriculture. For example, our AMS Market News staff works with organizations like the National Turkey Federation to provide current, unbiased price and sales information for hundreds of agricultural products. With more than 22.5 million turkeys expected to be eaten this holiday, having access to market data allows farmers and grocery stores to make more informed decisions as they prepare for the holiday rush.
AMS programs also help producers develop and expand markets for regional favorites like pecan pie, a staple in Thanksgiving dinners all over the southeast. In 2009, for example, the agency’s Specialty Crop Block Grant Program helped the Georgia Pecan Growers Association promote the quality and health benefits of pecans grown in the state. As a result of new promotional efforts, pecans are now reaching new domestic and international markets and being featured on more Thanksgiving tables.
In the spirit of this holiday season, it is also important to remember those who are less fortunate. AMS plays a key role in providing food for those in need by purchasing commodities for USDA’s feeding programs. In fiscal year 2013, for example, AMS purchased over 92 million pounds of turkey! In addition to fighting hunger and ensuring that all Americans have safe, wholesome food, these purchases also help producers by stabilizing prices and balancing supply and demand.
I am certainly thankful to work at an agency that directly and indirectly creates opportunities for America’s hardworking farmers and ranchers. And this week, when we sit down for Thanksgiving dinner, I hope we all remember to give special thanks for those who produced the ingredients for our delicious meals on Thanksgiving—and throughout the year!
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Nice! It would have been nice to see Illinois listed as the #1 Top State Producer of Pumpkins http://www.agr.state.il.us/newsrels/r1022041.html
In the spirit of Thanksgiving it is good to remember those less fortunate. Then each of us can freely give what we can. But this same spirit of freedom suffers in the taking by taxation of money to fund special interests such as the Specialty Crop Block Grant Program. The health of pecans can be promoted without promoting the health of Georgia pecan growers through a transfusion of tax money. Consumer money freely given to pecan growers is much to be preferred in a healthy free economy. And it is for the fleeting freedoms still allowed by a growing government that I treasure on this Thanksgiving.
Thanks for your feedback, Friedrich!
And @ Mary Hosier – Thanks for your comment. Love the state pride! We actually featured Illinois' pumpkin production in our Halloween infographic last month, listing it first in our list of the top five pumpkin-growing states. You can check out that blog & infographic at: http://blogs.usda.gov/2013/10/31/reapers-and-creepers-give-rave-reviews…
"Diary of a Small Farmer" has some new innovative farm techniques. Please check it out and write your congressman.
Don't forget that life can be very hard for the farmer and ranchers and their families.Let us pray that those that sacrifice so much of their time, energy, and money for the sake of others must be praised and worshipped in their own right and may we stop eating "shovels" of food unless your body needs it.Too overweight is a crime to the animal that was sacrificed for that fat person's pleasure.
"7.5 trillion pounds of Turkey in 2012". Is that correct?
This all sounds so fine and well until you realize you are not talking about family farmers, or farming the way it used to be done. Production on the levels you are talking about are from factory farms. Assembly line type farming, complete with antibiotics, hormones, and all kinds of other nasties we do not need in our foods. I want my meats and vegetables to be free from toxins that will harm me or my family. In reality our smaller "real" farmers are being hurt by you and your Farm Bill.
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