Let’s grow our market share

Hoard's Dairyman: 

Let’s grow our market share

Date: 
Tue, 02/12/2013

U.S. Department of Labor numbers show that many more have the opportunity to add value to our food.

by Lucas Sjostrom, contributing editor

Who touches your food? We often hear that 2 percent of people have jobs directly related to agriculture. I’m not sure if that number is high or low, but it just seems convenient.

Where does the 2 percent come from? U.S. Department of Labor numbers which tell us that there were 1,202,500 farmers, ranchers and other managers, plus 757,900 jobs for “agricultural workers” in 2010. Looking into the U.S. Census of 2010, the U.S. population was 308,745,538. Some quick math tells me that we’re looking at 0.6 percent, not 2.0 percent, of the U.S. being on the farm. So where do we find another 5.4 million workers? Good question.

One big number we’re leaving out is spouses and children. But since they’re not farm owners, just as in other businesses, I thought it would be better (and easier) to compare apples to apples.

If we add fishermen (32,000), forest and conservation workers (13,700) and loggers (53,200), we add nearly 100,000 more jobs. That barely dents our missing workers down to 5.3 million.

But we could add in the food preparation and serving occupations which includes bartenders, chefs, cooks, servers, food preparers and wait staff. These categories add over 9 million workers, 8.5 million if we took out the bartenders. This gives us an additional 3 percent of citizens who deal with food every day. And we do owe all of them quite a bit for their work in adding value to our products.

Food processing (311,300), food processing operators (131,000), slaughterers and meat packers (89,100) and woodworkers (217,200) add nearly 750,000 additional jobs. In business and financial operations, we find 10,180 farm product buyers and purchasers, 960 farm labor contractors, 10,500 farm and home management advisers.

If we totaled everything up, we’d have about 11 million that are somewhere along the food and fiber chain. This doesn’t include people, like CEOs and accountants at ag firms, who may be deeply involved in agriculture. Eleven million gets us to 3.5 percent of the population. Imagine if we could get all those people in a room to agree on something as a majority vote?

Real farmers (not the author of this blog) are indeed a small percentage, less than one percent. But with our network of people who bring food to the table and fiber to homes and stores, we could do a much better job of linking the entire food chain. Just remember, there’s a 3.5 percent chance the person next to you deals with food, but a 100 percent chance they eat it. Find a way to relate and we could put together one heck of a campaign.

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