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CCFB News» May 2023

At the Farm GateAgriculture Jobs Outpace Graduates

05/02/2023 @ 8:30 am | By Joanie Stiers

Good news for the soon-to-be senior in our house: The nation’s largest employer is looking for applicants.


The agriculture industry comprises about 11% of the jobs in the United States, employing more citizens than any other industry at 22 million people across more than 250 career areas, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture. Contrary to popular belief, farmers are just a sliver of agriculture’s employment pie, and there’s plenty of pie available for anyone with the hunger to support the nation’s need for food, fiber and fuel. No farm background required.


The demand for agricultural engineers, agronomists, plant breeders, foresters, veterinarians, agriscience teachers, climate specialists and more will outpace the available college graduates in these disciplines. More than 59,000 job openings will be available – per year – in agriculture, food, renewable natural resources and related industries through at least 2025, according to the 2020-2025 Employment Opportunities Report by the U.S. Department of Agriculture and Purdue University.


Students who enjoy biochemistry perhaps haven’t thought to consider a career in agronomy or biofuels. The mechanically minded may like a profession as an agriculture engineer or precision agriculture specialist. Writers may find fitting opportunities as agricultural journalists.


For good reason, the wall in our high school agriculture classroom says, “Your Career Starts Here.” In the last 10 years alone, I have watched students at our small school find their passions through agricultural education and the leadership and career-developing experiences of the FFA.


They now serve the agriculture industry as agronomists, farm financial officers, agricultural educators, agricultural engineers, livestock managers and diesel technicians. My husband has hired graduates to work with precision technologies and vehicle autonomy in agriculture. Some prepare for an ag-related career, training to become agricultural accountants, veterinarians and horticulturists.


The Illinois Agri-Food Alliance, of which the Illinois Farm Bureau is a founding member, recently launched AGNITOR, a digital platform to connect agri-food professionals to classrooms for virtual chats about careers. The program intends to generate student awareness about career opportunities spanning agriculture, food and natural resources. The National FFA offers opportunities to digitally explore agricultural careers, too. These tools can help students like our daughter find their ideal fit in this diverse and necessary industry.


About the author: Joanie Stiers farms with her family, growing corn, soybeans, wheat and hay and raising beef cattle and backyard chickens in West-Central Illinois.

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