November 2016 Column: Thankful for Agriculture in Alabama
Thanksgiving is a time of reflection on all of the things we are thankful for in our lives. The Thanksgiving holiday was born in 1620 at Plymouth with the arrival of the Mayflower in America. In 1789, President George Washington officially proclaimed a nationwide thanksgiving celebration as a day of “public thanksgiving and prayer.” President Abraham Lincoln established in 1863 for Thanksgiving to be observed the last Thursday of November.
As many of us prepare to gather on Thursday and indulge in a southern Thanksgiving meal of delicious turkey, ham, dressing, sweet potato casserole, and roasted vegetables around a table with family and friends, I am reminded of what agriculture means to our State.
Agriculture is the oldest industry in Alabama with agriculture, forestry and related industries providing an economic impact of more than 70 billion dollars and 580,000 jobs. Timber production and processing leads the way, providing 122,000 jobs and 21.4-billion-dollar economic impact. The poultry sector is Alabama’s second leading agriculture industry with a 15-billion-dollar impact and 86,000 jobs. The other top commodities in our State include cattle and calves, greenhouse, nursery, soybeans, peanuts, and cotton. Commodities help provide essential food, fiber, nutrition and clothing for Alabamians. Farming is the root and fabric of our State.
Alabama is made up of more than 43,000 farms stretching across 8.9 million acres reaching from the Gulf Coast to the mountains in North Alabama. Farming is a family tradition that is most often passed down through generations as 92 percent of Alabama farms are family owned and operated. When purchasing foods and produce grown in our State, you are supporting committed and hardworking families. Alabama is home to some of the best farmers in the world whose farming practices reflect the pride they take in being good stewards of our lands.
I have long been supportive of commodity-based projects such as End Child Hunger in Alabama, a statewide effort addressing the critical issues of hunger and food insecurity facing Alabama’s children and youth. Hunger is an issue that affects one in four of Alabama’s children. The abundant food resources in our State is a good score card, but we lack access for all to enjoy the fruits of the labor.
Alabama farmers are extremely efficient enjoying record production levels. Farmers will continue to be the foundation of our State for many decades to come. I hope you will join me in thanking and remembering families in our State who work so hard, not only for their livelihood, but also for our State’s heath and benefit. I am forever thankful to the farmers who call Alabama home.