By Denny Banister
When our country was founded, most Americans were farmers, making agriculture the nation’s biggest employer of the time. Today, farmers comprise less than two percent of the nation’s population, and yet agriculture is still one of the nation’s biggest employers.
Granted, more workers punch time clocks at Procter and Gamble, General Motors, AT&T and other giant companies than farmhands at the King Ranch. Most farms are family operations, and not directly responsible for employing many workers.
Agriculture in total, however, is the epitome of big business and is responsible for 15% of all jobs in America. In fact, you may be employed by agriculture and not even be aware of it. For example, I am not a farmer, I am a retired journalist; but I wrote about farmers and farm-related issues.
Granted, my connection to agriculture is obvious since I was employed by the Missouri Farm Bureau, but many other journalists nationwide are tasked to cover farm and agriculture issues for their newspapers and radio stations; they may be paid by the New York Times or CBS, but they are employed because of agriculture.
Many of the trucks on the nation’s highways pull refrigerated trailers loaded with food bound for processing plants, wholesale distributors, grocery stores, supermarkets and restaurants in every city in the United States. As a truck driver, your paycheck may come from a trucking firm, but you may be employed because of agriculture.
If you work at Walmart, you work for one of the nation’s largest grocers; if you work for McDonald’s, you work for one of the nation’s largest fast-food restaurants; if you work for the federal government, you may be employed because of agriculture – many federal workers are, but don’t really make the connection.
You may work for a bank or other financial institution or you may be a broker or investor and be employed because of agriculture. Not just loan officers working with farmers, but many financial workers assist businesses and industrial clients who are in business because of agriculture.
You may live and work right in the center of one of the nation’s largest urban metropolises and be as many generations removed from the farm as anyone can possibly be, and still be employed by agriculture.
So happy Labor Day from the small rural businesses called family farms. They may be your meal ticket regardless of who signs your paycheck.
(Denny Banister, of Jefferson City, Mo., is a retired broadcaster from Missouri Farm Bureau, the state’s largest farm organization.)