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Letter: Be sure to thank farmers and ranchers

American supermarkets are amazing places.

The fresh produce, meat and dairy products on our shelves are astounding. The cereals and breads are so plentiful and various you wonder if anyone has ever taken the time to try them all. The soups, jams and jellies stretch aisle after aisle.

Nowhere in the world is such a wide array of food available to everyday consumers. It's important to consider the farmers, ranchers and growers who work every day to produce this bounty of food, fiber and fuel we use every day.

Farmers are skilled businesspeople who work sunrise to sunset most days of the year -- weekdays, weekends, even holidays. They pamper the soil and the plants that spring from it; carefully tend to their livestock; steer hundred-thousand-dollar harvesting machines; pluck fruit, nuts and vegetables from trees and vines; and still find time to manage their business spreadsheets with the patience of an accountant.

Like you, they earn an income so they can send their children to college pay the mortgage and put a variety of food on their own tables.

There are approximately 2.2 million productive farms in the United States, of which 81,000 farms are in Minnesota. Most of them are small, family-run operations that produce less than $250,000 of annual revenue -- and have expenses that can consume as much as 90 percent of that revenue. Many, if not most, farmers and ranchers work other jobs to supplement their incomes.

So what does this hard work of our farmers, ranchers and growers mean to you? In short, a lot.

It means that as a consumer, you pay the smallest percentage of your income for food than consumers in any other nation. Every day, we as Americans owe America's farmers and ranchers our deepest gratitude. They have helped America become strong and stay strong. They've long provided America with the highest quality food and fiber and today they are helping to lay the foundation for a new energy economy in America -- one rooted in our forests and fields, not foreign oilfields.

So, the next time you visit the grocery store, a restaurant or farmers' market, I am asking that you join my colleagues and me at the U.S. Department of Agriculture in thanking America's farmers and ranchers. I'm certain they will be grateful to know that their fellow citizens appreciate their role in making America a truly great nation.