Each year in March, we celebrate the hard work and dedication of our Nebraska farmers and ranchers, and we recognize our agricultural industry's contributions to our state. Nebraska's agricultural sector is the top segment of our state's economy and one of the key reasons our state is financially stronger at than most other states in the country.
In honor of Nebraska Agriculture Week, I will travel to Ainsworth, Alliance and Grand Island for ag events to highlight the importance of our farmers, ranchers and agribusinesses. I will be joined by ag leaders in our state, including Agriculture Director Greg Ibach and Steve Nelson, President of Nebraska Farm Bureau.
Nebraska is the fourth largest agricultural state in the country. We are a leading producer of commodities ranging from cattle and hogs, to pinto and Great Northern beans, popcorn, corn and soybeans.
The demand for Nebraska's food products has enabled our state economy to remain strong and there is potential for us to do even more. By the year 2050, the world's population is expected to increase by nearly 2 billion people. Nebraska's farmers and ranchers are ready to respond to the growing demand for safe and wholesome food products.
With that demand, comes the need for more Nebraskans to work in agricultural related fields, including biofuels and renewable energy, transportation, warehousing and logistics, hospitality and tourism, food processing, research and development and the biosciences. There is an important time for our youth to get involved in agriculture.
It is also important that those who are not directly involved in the industry have an understanding of where their food, fuel and fiber come from. If you have questions about food production, I encourage you to ask a local farmer or rancher. They will be happy to share with you what they do every day. Our farmers and ranchers are proud of their work ethic, their care of their animals and their good stewardship of the land.
Nebraska's farmers and ranchers truly are feeding our families, and that was the theme of the 2012 Nebraska Department of Agriculture poster contest. This year, more than 1,400 elementary school students took part in the contest, submitting drawings to depict "Nebraska Agriculture: Feeding My Family." The winners are posted online at www.agr.ne.gov.
I want to thank the students, families and agriculture organizations who were part of our Nebraska Agriculture Week celebration. Our farmers and ranchers impact the lives of every Nebraskan. I encourage you to take the time to thank them.