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Ag census required reading

The 2007 U.S. Census of Agriculture is a reminder to urban residents of the region that farming and agribusiness remain the economic mainstays of the Red River Valley.

The ag census, which is done every five years, showed trends regarding farmers' ages and farm sizes have not changed significantly.

But the value of farm products went up a lot from 2002 to 2007. Those dollars represent a reliable economic foundation for the region.

As urban centers such as Fargo-Moorhead continue to grow, it's routine for city residents to forget about farming, ranching and the business base that depends on production agriculture.

The city's population has changed a lot in the past decade, as people with no experience in rural life moved here for jobs and education.

The migration of rural residents to the city has all but dried up. There are fewer people out there.

Those migrants brought with them knowledge, understanding -- and respect for -- the contributions of agriculture to the regional economy.

Newcomers from places without Midwest rural life experiences can't possibly grasp the value of agriculture to their well-being in the city.

The ag census provides the numbers and trends, not only for farmers and farms, but also, by inference, for the cities and towns in this vast agricultural heartland.

For example, the market value of ag products rose from $3.2 billion to $6 billion in North Dakota, and from $8.6 billion to $13.2 billion in Minnesota from 2002 to 2007.

While not all of those dollars remain in the states, most do, resulting in a significant stimulus to economic activity. Those dollars translate into purchases of goods and services and creation of non-farm jobs.

Diversification of the regional economy has been successful, and has contributed to the relative economic stability of the Red River Valley region.

But the enduring foundation is agriculture, in all its diverse forms.

City folks who find themselves less and less connected to the land should take time to understand the value and vitality of modern farming. -- The Forum