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Editor's notes: $100 billion influence

Darren Olsen, Editor Published on 07 August 2009

I would like to be the first person to welcome everyone to Progressive Forage Grower.
This has been a project several years in the making and everyone who works behind the scenes at this magazine is excited to see it come together.

As the readership of this publication has grown from the western U.S. to all of North America, we realized the magazine also needed to grow in scope to remain an effective tool for forage growers.

That need is what brought about the change in name, frequency and size. We remain committed to providing the best information available to all forage producers, realizing there is more than one way to feed livestock.

As I attend meetings and visit with individuals throughout the country, I am often asked by people outside the forage industry as to why I would be involved with something that really doesn’t have that big of an impact.

While it is true that forage production doesn’t typically come to the top of the list in most peoples’ minds when they think about agriculture, the reality is we are an industry that influences over $100 billion dollars a year in agricultural goods and services. And, that is a conservative estimate.

When I tell people that, they usually laugh and ask how I come up with such a huge figure. Hay sales in the U.S. account for little over $6 billion, so how can I use such an outlandish amount to describe the forage industry?

The answer is quite simple. Without forage production (hay, silage and pasture) you can pretty much eliminate the beef, dairy, horse, sheep, goat and exotic animal industries.

There is no more milk in the store, no more Kentucky Derby, no more steak on the barbecue or ice cream for dessert. Zoos would be forced to shut down. Leather prices would skyrocket, diets would change forever and boy scouts wouldn’t have wool socks for cold nights.

While forages will probably never be seen as a critical part of agriculture, it reminds me much of how yeast works in bread. You never really think about it until it is missing.

Without it, you will never get a satisfactory result with what you are doing. Only when it is gone or hard to come by does its role in making bread really come to mind. Forages play the same role in production agriculture. Like it or not, unless you run out of feed for animals, you never really think about it much.

But that is why this publication exists. It is there to be used as a tool by those who produce forages and stands as a representative of an industry whose members and mission it is to make products that help feed the world.

As a kid who grew up baling hay at 4:00 in the morning while the dew was holding the leaves on the stems and then feeding it out throughout the winter to our cattle, I never really appreciated what all that work represented.

Today, I have a much better understanding of what forage production and the livelihood it brings to people throughout the country means.

I know the blood, sweat and tears it takes to make a high-quality product. I understand there are people behind the stacks of hay, piles of silage and rolling acres of pasture that make up this industry.

Forage production is more than a figure on a balance sheet. It is a way of life. It is an opportunity to take part in a practice thousands of years in the making, which is just as important today as it was then. But, it is nice to know that $100 billion is riding on its shoulders. It makes the long nights a little more bearable.  FG

Darren Olsen
FG Editor