Commentary: Agriculture’s time in the sun

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Ladies and gentlemen, start your grills! It's time for Fourth of July celebrations, family reunions, neighborhood gatherings and any other excuse to get together and enjoy the summertime foods we love. I'm partial to a thick beef rib eye, and somehow it seems to taste even better if it has those crosshatched grill marks on both sides.

Summer is the perfect time to recognize the abundance provided by America's farmers and ranchers. Tomato vines are dripping with fruit. The corn is ripe and sweet. Seasonal ice cream stands are open. Agricultural bounty is all around us.

Independence Day

As we celebrate our nation's 238th birthday, the words of the document that established the United States as a new nation-the Declaration of Independence-seem especially applicable to farmers and ranchers. The Continental Congress wrote, "We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness."

Nothing is more essential to life than food and, therefore, agriculture. Farmers and ranchers have a special appreciation for liberty-the freedom to be productive and profitable. Also, it's much easier to pursue happiness when you are free from hunger.

While we celebrate the declaration of American independence from Britain, it is also fitting to recognize how farmers and ranchers, who produce the bounty we enjoy, also give us our personal independence. Because farmers have chosen to work the land for a living, others are free to pursue other careers and interests-whatever constitutes their personal pursuit of happiness.

United States of Agriculture

Sometimes it seems that Americans aren't very united in our views about food, or the farmers and ranchers who provide our food security. There is much healthy debate about what we should eat, how it should be produced, etc. It is because of our abundant food supply and farmers' amazing productivity that we are able to have those debates. If we didn't live in the land of plenty, and plenty of choices, our national conversation would be very different than it is today.

We can and should have those debates, but let's also recognize how food brings us together, especially at certain times of the year. Let's celebrate the things that make us uniquely American, such as our love for a pie made from fresh summer berries or that burger on the grill.

Let's also remember to thank the farmers and ranchers who work and face risks that would keep most people awake at night, so all of us can fill our picnic plates.

Happy birthday, America!

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