The COVID-19 pandemic has dramatically changed our daily lives and shifted global perspectives on what is important. Around the world, people are applauding the amazing work and dedication of the health professionals on the front lines of this health care crisis. But as a society, we’ve also taken notice of the essential work quietly performed by the men and women who keep the world running on a daily basis: factory workers keeping the manufacturing line moving, grocery clerks stocking shelves, and the farmers and ranchers who work tirelessly to feed the world.
“There has been no other time in recent memory where the critical role farmers and food manufacturers play has been as prominent”
There has been no other time in recent memory where the critical role farmers and food manufacturers play has been as prominent. For the majority of Americans, we have lost our collective connection to agriculture and many of us take for granted the incredible effort it requires to grow our food or care for a herd of animals, produce a finished food product, move that product to market and all of the steps in between. Even in the midst of a global pandemic, our food and agriculture producers are working to overcome incredible supply chain stressors to ensure that we have access to the food we need.
I have had the immense privilege of working in agriculture and witnessing firsthand the remarkable resiliency of our farmers and the innovation displayed by food producers, especially in recent years.
At the U.S. Dairy Export Council (USDEC), we have never lost sight of the significance of the food and agricultural industry in meeting our nation’s nutritional needs and driving the American economy. The food and agricultural industry employs 43 million people or 28 percent of the entire American workforce, either directly or indirectly. The economic benefits generated by these industries powers 20 percent of the largest economy in the world.
To keep needed food products moving to markets around the world, USDEC has continually worked to cultivate partnerships with groups like the Inter-American Institute for Cooperation on Agriculture (IICA). Through these partnerships, we promote the adoption of policies that drive agriculture forward, encourage sustainable practices, improve animal health and welfare, and ensure that science-based regulations prevail over unjustified trade barriers. During the COVID-19 pandemic, our partnership and deep coordination with IICA has strengthened our ability to respond nimbly to the new challenges presented by this crisis.
“We promote the adoption of policies that drive agriculture forward, encourage sustainable practices, improve animal health and welfare, and ensure that science-based regulations prevail over unjustified trade barriers”
Dairy is a critical component of the global diet, fulfilling key nutritional needs. And dairy farmers and processors do more than feed the world; they also fuel sustainable economic development. The global dairy industry employs approximately 240 million people who care for more than 360 million dairy cows across more than 130 million dairy farms. In the United States alone, dairy creates three million jobs with an economic impact greater than $650 billion, according to a study conducted by International Dairy Food Association.
Together, we will continue our work so we don’t have to rely on the next global crisis to demonstrate the importance of our heroes in the food and agriculture supply chain who work day-in and day-out to move essential food supplies to people and markets who need it most.
Tom Vilsack is President and CEO of the U.S. Dairy Export Council. He was the U.S. Secretary of Agriculture from 2009 to 2017. He was governor of Iowa from 1999 to 2007.
Note: The opinions expressed in this Blog are the responsibility of the author and do not necessarily reflect the opinion of IICA.