Downwind"Ag Literacy Pillar 6"
Over the past five months, I have been writing about the Pillars of Agricultural Literacy – Understanding the intersection between agriculture and society. This month, I am writing about the final pillar!
(I have reviewed the first five pillars as shown below with previous columns available on the Cook County Farm Bureau website: www.cookcfb.org).
Pillar 6: The Relationship between Agriculture and the Economy
Many people fail to realize agriculture’s economic engine is enormous in the Chicagoland area. Chicago is surrounded by millions of acres of the most productive agriculture lands and farmers in the world. The food, fuel, products, commodities, and pharmaceuticals generated by the agricultural sector of the Midwest must be stored, moved, processed, packaged, refined, marketed, delivered, prepared, and consumed. We call this the “agriculture supply chain.”
The pandemic helped most of us better understand the supply chain and how closely it is connected to our country’s national, regional, area, and local economies. Actually, there is not just “one” agricultural supply chain. There are a number of agricultural supply chains meeting people’s needs including: Farm to Fork; Farm to Fuel; Farm to Flannel; Farm to Pharmacy, and combinations of each (see the graphic of the meat supply chain below).
These supply chains are packed full of businesses and jobs that enable the chain to work. Jobs equal economy. In Illinois, 20 to 25% of occupations are a part of an agricultural supply chain: farmers, truckers, input businesses, chefs, supermarkets, restaurants, marketers, nutritionists, veterinarians, food scientists, and the jobs list goes on and on.
Since the days of the stockyards, Chicago and food manufacturing have been synonymous. Today, food processing and manufacturing companies employ thousands of Illinois workers, including Kraft-Heinz, General Mills, Mondelez, Tootsie Roll, Tyson, Kellogg, Nestlé, Ingredion, ADM, Davidson’s Eggs, Armour Swift Eckrich, Hormel, Hillshire, Pepsi and Coca-Cola, Eli’s Cheesecake, Frito-Lay, Oberweis, Smithfield, ConAgra, Wrigley, and several pizza competitors, as well as many beer, wine, and spirits producers!
In rural areas, the economy is even more heavily dependent on agriculture. A good economic year on the farm will boost nearly all rural businesses, and unfortunately, a bad farm year brings a negative impact.
Supply and demand relationships are a part of the farm production and distribution just like other industries. Inflation in recent months has been a concern and is quickly noticed when prices spike on one’s favorite foods and products. Farm
Bureau works hard to help ensure quality, affordable food and farm products through sensible, limited, and nonredundant regulation, minimum trade barriers, technology that enhances food quality and quantity, and a supply chain that works through good times and bad.
“Beef – it’s what’s for dinner” was the tagline marketing campaign by the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association and Beef
Board back in the early ‘90s and is still being used today. The tagline must be effective as I certainly remember it and lately, living it!
In December, while in Chicago, I had a brief conversation with a local beef farmer. In passing, I mentioned I would be interested in a quarter beef. A couple weeks later, I received a phone call from a meat locker asking how I wanted my quarter beef cut up. Two weeks later, our freezer was stuffed full hamburger, steaks, roasts, ribs, stew meat, brisket…approximately 180 pounds of beef!
I’m a big fan of this type of relationship between agriculture and the economy featuring word-of-mouth marketing, a verbal contract, trust by all parties, and delivery of a quality product to a happy consumer! What a great supply chain!