Last week, Kentucky farm families celebrated “National Agriculture Week,” but as you can imagine, our annual celebration was quieter than usual, given our on-going fight against the global COVID-19 pandemic.
As I talked to members of the media and neighbors to promote the celebration, they bombarded me with the following questions: Are we going to run out of food? Is our food supply safe? How can I support local farmers and agribusinesses?
The good news is that America has the safest, most abundant food supply in the world and all evidence suggests that COVID-19 cannot be transmitted via food or livestock, provided you sanitize and prepare food as you would normally.
During this time of national shutdown, individuals and communities ought to support and honor the American farmer even more. A recent study from a national organization reported that the local and regional food system – think farmers’ markets, farm to school programs, and the like – could see a nearly $700 million decrease in sales. It is more important now than ever before that consumers support farmers, agribusinesses, and retailers. Luckily for you, the Kentucky Department of Agriculture has developed several resources for consumers to find local food and other value-added agricultural products during this time.
Farmers do not get the credit they deserve, even though in Kentucky they are responsible for $45 billion of economic impact. As National Review writer Victor Davis Hansen wrote recently, “in our age of necessary shutdowns and staying home, one thing we must do is eat – and eat well to stay healthy. And that means a lot of people have to go to work and produce food.” That’s why the KDA advocated for an exemption for agriculture to stay open for business. Over the course of the last century, farmers have become so good at what they do that they are seemingly invisible. While many Kentuckians can telecommute from their homes, farmers rise early before dawn and work late into the evening to provide food and fiber for us and our families.
So while it is good to thank a farmer, remember one of the best ways to show your gratitude is by purchasing from farmers and businesses. And if you make a habit of it, you can celebrate agriculture all year long.
Dr. Ryan Quarles serves as Kentucky’s Agriculture Commissioner.