Nebraska’s agriculture producers, our farmers and ranchers, are the backbone of our great state. They cultivate crops and raise livestock to feed people here in the United States and all over the world. Along the way, they create hundreds of thousands of great-paying jobs for our economy. In their work, they exemplify the grit, community spirit, and stewardship of the land and natural resources that define who we are as a people.

As Nebraskans, we have the luxury of dining on food that’s literally grown and raised in our own backyards—or in fields and pastures just a few miles away. Farm-to-table isn’t a fad here. It’s how we’ve been living since before our statehood. All summer long, from Memorial Day to Labor Day, Nebraskans fire up their grills to put the perfect char marks on burgers and steaks made from cattle raised right here in the Beef State. Soon, Nebraskans will spread butter and sprinkle salt on freshly picked corn-on-the-cob from local fields. There’s something special about the delicious flavor and crunch of Nebraska-grown sweet corn that’s almost impossible to find anywhere else.

While we often associate agriculture with the farmers and ranchers who directly produce commodities like beef and corn, the industry grows opportunities for Nebraskans in a wide variety of fields. Consider just a small sampling of the hundreds of professions in agriculture: horticulture instructors, irrigation engineers, crop market analysts, ag aviators, groundwater geologists, soil scientists, plant ecologists, entomologists (insect scientists), microbiologists, livestock veterinarians, butchers, meat inspectors, harness makers, machinists, welders, diesel mechanics, and grain elevator operators. As you can see, jobs in agriculture encompass a wide range of fields—manufacturing, transportation, science, education, economics, and more!

In fact, agriculture creates far more highly skilled jobs than there are qualified workers to fill them. The USDA estimates that 60,000 high-skill jobs come open each year in agriculture, yet only 35,000 graduates are available to perform them. In other words, there’s an abundance of rewarding jobs and exciting opportunities awaiting college and university grads in agriculture.

To help introduce more Nebraskans to these great careers, a variety of organizations have created programs. For example, I worked with the Legislature to create the Developing Youth Talent Initiative, which has helped expose more than 7,000 Nebraskans to great careers in manufacturing and information technology. High schools have launched career academies, including York High School where you can earn your certification in skills ranging from irrigation technology to chemical application. Each year, the Nebraska Department of Agriculture hosts the Nebraska Agricultural Youth Institute, a conference to help young Nebraskans explore ag careers. Furthermore, Nebraska companies now offer 125 registered apprenticeship programs, an increase of 44 percent since 2016. And in February, we added a new German apprenticeship program at CLAAS in Omaha, a major manufacturer of combines.

In additional to full-time employment, agriculture also provides sought-after seasonal employment for Nebraskans. Each summer, more than 7,000 Nebraskans work as detasselers, performing indispensable labor for seed companies. They rise early to work in the cornfields and spend long hours in the summer heat to ensure that the cross-pollinating process yields a pure seed. For students and schoolteachers, detasseling is a desirable summer job and a welcome source of income. For many Nebraskans, detasseling is their first job. It’s a rite of passage that serves as a formative, character-building experience. Detasselers learn the value of hard work, the importance of teamwork, and skills in leadership. Detasseling also connects the residents of small towns and cities with Nebraska’s farmers, helping more Nebraskans build ties to the state’s #1 industry—agriculture. As you prepare your kid for college or a career, I hope that you will take time to help them learn more about the great career options in agriculture. If this interests you, I invite you to visit http://thegoodlifeiscalling.com/work to explore opportunities in fields like agribusiness and bioscience. Also, if you have ideas on how to grow Nebraska agriculture, I hope you will write me at pete.ricketts@nebraska.gov or call 402-471-2244. Together, let’s keep Nebraska the best place for agriculture anywhere on the planet.

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