Much has changed in agriculture since I milked cows as a kid. Extraordinary technological advances in the last few years are resulting in higher yields and increased outputs with fewer impacts on the environment. This incredible growth in productivity offers tremendous opportunities for economic development through a variety of value-added enterprises.
Farming and ranching operations do more than support the farmers or ranchers who own them. They also support employees, local cooperatives, gas stations, veterinarians, banks, schools, and other Main Street businesses.
Agriculture generates 20 percent of our state's economic activity, and we tend to get complacent when commodity prices are high and times are good. But good times don't last forever, and we must continue to grow and diversify this industry.
To explore new ways of expanding South Dakota agricultural businesses – from increasing international trade and exports to further developing our livestock industry – I am hosting the 2012 Governor's Ag Development Summit on June 27 in Pierre. The Summit will be a forum for a series of thoughtful conversations on agriculture and emphasize ways agricultural businesses can thrive in our state.
There are still spaces available for this important Summit, so register online at http://sdda.sd.gov or call the South Dakota Department of Agriculture at 605-773-5436.
South Dakota has the land, the people, the drive, and the opportunity to build this important economic sector for the next generation. We must look for ways – right now – to bring in quality development that will help keep agriculture as South Dakota's No. 1 industry. We need to do this by looking for areas capable of sustaining development and supporting them in preparation for it.
The Governor's Ag Development Summit will help lead us down the path for future growth and progression of our agriculture industry. I hope to see you there.