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Idaho agriculture department celebrates National Ag Day

By Sean Ellis

Idaho Farm Bureau Federation

BOISE – On National Agriculture Day this year, 166 dinner plates hung from a display inside the Idaho Capitol building.

They were meant to be a very visual representation of how many people the average U.S. farmer feeds.

The plates were part of a larger display by the Idaho State Department of Agriculture to celebrate National Ag Day, which occurred March 21.

“What we’re recognizing today is that our farmers and ranchers, each one of them, every day, feeds 166 people,” said ISDA Deputy Director Lloyd Knight. “It’s a chance for us all to take a minute and think of what all the farmers and ranchers in the state and nation do in feeding our country and the world.”

ISDA Director Chanel Tewalt said the display was meant to be a fun way for lawmakers and visitors to the Capitol to learn a little about Idaho agriculture and the impact is has on the state.

“It’s an honor for us to celebrate this day inside the Capitol building and engage in conversations with lawmakers and with the folks who visit the Capitol during spring break as well,” she said.

Tewalt said the display was also a way to celebrate all the Idaho farmers, ranchers and other agricultural workers who produce a good chunk of the nation’s food supply.

Included in the ag day display were visuals giving people an idea of the sheer amount of food that Gem State farmers and ranchers produce.

Idaho ranks No. 1 in five different agricultural commodities (potatoes, barley, alfalfa hay, peppermint oil and food-size trout) and the state ranks near the top in many other commodities, including milk and cheese, dry onions, spring wheat and lentils, dry edible beans, corn silage and dry edible peas.

Idaho ranked in the top 8 nationally in 22 different ag commodity categories in 2021.

Several signs included in the display showed how much of certain ag commodities each Idahoan would have to eat every day if Gem State residents had to consume all ag products produced within the state

For example, 38 potatoes, 137 slices of bread, 2 pounds of cheese, 2 pounds of beef, 1 cup of beans and 3 pounds of sugar.

“We want to show Idahoans how much productivity exists in our ag industry,” Tewalt said. “I hope people are blown away by the productivity of the agriculture industry in the state. Our ag folks are just doing the most incredible things in terms of productivity, ingenuity and producing some of the highest-quality food products in the world.”

She said she also hopes people walked away from the display with an appreciation for how much work goes into getting food to their table.

“I would hope that people take away from this that it’s not an accident that food gets to their table,” Tewalt said. “It takes an incredible amount of hard work to ensure that happens.”

According to a University of Idaho study, agriculture directly and indirectly accounts for about $29 billion in sales each year in Idaho, which is more than 17 percent of the state’s total economic output.

The study also found the ag industry accounts for one in every eight jobs in the state and 13 percent of Idaho’s total gross state product.

“So it doesn’t matter if you’re in Bonners Ferry, Boise or Rexburg, agriculture matters to everybody in Idaho,” Tewalt said.

Knight said he hopes people who visited the display got an appreciation for just how important the state’s agricultural industry is.

Idaho is famous for potatoes, obviously, but the state’s farmers and ranchers also produce an enormous amount of other ag products, he said. When you add in the ag processing capacity in the state, “It’s a substantial footprint that agriculture has in Idaho,” he said.

“I would hope they can remember the scope of agriculture in Idaho that the display represents,” Knight said. “We produce far more than we could ever consume as a state and we produce some of the highest-quality food in the country and world. I hope Idahoans can be proud of that.”