Radke Report: Our farm and ranch kids deserve a fighting chance

Amanda Radke
The Radke Report

Did you know that only 1.5% of the population feeds the entire world?

And did you know that one United States farm can feed 166 people annually?

And did you know that 98% of farms are family owned and operated?

Did you also know that these families provide 88% of total food production?

On these family farm operations, did you know these folks own half of the U.S. farm land, as well?

Of course, these family farms and ranches differ in size and scope significantly, with some making as little as $1,000 annually to others generating more than $5 million each year.

It takes a lot to be involved in production agriculture these days, so it’s not shocking to know that there are fewer than 2% of us willing to take on the task.

Yet, for all of the hard work, capital risk and volatility, most farms and ranches cannot sustain themselves on the income derived off the land.

According to the USDA, “Over 80% of these operators work at an offsite location, as do 62% of their spouses.”

If eight out of every 10 farms require off-farm income, I’m afraid we might have a problem, and it comes as no surprise that more and more producers are calling it quits and moving onto professions that offer more security and regular cash flow to raise their families on.

While I wish I could be optimistic, I’m afraid that the family farms and ranches we know and love are in a battle for survival. It absolutely breaks my heart to see so many families exit the business and say goodbye to multi-generational businesses and traditions.

Not that I can blame them. The challenges are immense.

Skyrocketing input costs. Intense capital risk. Volatile markets with no true competition to capture true market value. Little-to-no share of the consumer retail dollar. Ongoing drought & unpredictable, devastating weather events.

Corruption in our systems with wolves infiltrating almost every institution, which ultimately influences policies & regulations that cripple family farms while propping up the big guys & heavy hitters. Foreign entities buying our U.S. farmland. Misleading beef labels at the grocery store.

Climate change extremists weaponizing the word “sustainability” to attack private land owners. Fake meat companies stealing our nomenclature and smearing our products. A hostile media that talks about cow farts endlessly, and celebrity influencers who are paid to perpetuate the falsehoods.

And the list goes on …

These worries for our American family farms and ranches plague me and keep me up at night wondering how to combat it all.

But that’s what fuels me to hit the road and spread the word. Over the weekend, I had the opportunity to work with the Hereford Youth Foundation of America junior members at their leadership event in Billings, Mont., and let me tell you: they were impressive. Knowledgeable. Passionate. Sharp. Motivated. Strong. Influential. Articulate. Optimistic.

These kids deserve for us to fight the hard battles while they develop their skill sets, but I’m confident when they enter into the field of agriculture, they will be more than equipped to join us in the fight for survival.

The next generation of farm and ranch kids needs us right now. What does their future in agriculture look like if we stop fighting and become apathetic to this growing list of concerns? What does the future of food security look like if we don’t say no to the extremist agendas?

Our time is now. We were born for such a time as this. Are you ready to stand up for this industry we love? If we don’t, who will?

Amanda Radke is a fifth-generation rancher from Mitchell who has dedicated her career to serving as a voice for the nation’s beef producers. A 2009 graduate of South Dakota State University with a degree in agricultural communications, education and leadership, Radke is a blogger for BEEF Daily blog.