Modern agriculture seems so out-of-sight, out-of-mind for the average American. This is mainly because so few of us farm and ranch and our farms are not front and center in the landscape. But Arizona and American agriculture is essential. Here’s why.

Three main reasons exist as to why Arizona agriculture is essential:

  • Agriculture must have a market that can be local, statewide, national, and International.
  • Our agriculture must be suitable to Arizona’s climate.
  • And, most importantly, farming and ranching must be essential to Arizona’s food supply. 

Even alfalfa is essential to our local, national, and international food supply. Without this crop, we could not have a local dairy industry, nor could other countries. True alfalfa is not a direct food crop for humans. You and I don’t eat alfalfa. However, Arizona’s two largest agriculture commodities, dairy and beef, do. Dairy and beef are so dependent on Arizona’s alfalfa that farmers grow that without this crop we couldn’t have a dairy and beef industry in our state.

Our ability to produce high-quality forage products like alfalfa for our livestock industry in Arizona reduces the cost of transportation for fluid milk in terms of actual costs and carbon emissions. Plus, dairies must be co-located with population centers to keep costs down. That’s why 80% of our alfalfa production stays local. Not only that, our dairy industry and other livestock operations feed a lot of agricultural byproducts (for example, brewer’s spent grain) that would otherwise go to waste, essentially upcycling products not usable for human consumption into highly nutritious food products for all of us.

Just how essential is Arizona agriculture? According to Vice President for Agriculture, Life and Veterinary Sciences and Cooperative Extension at the University of Arizona Shane Burgess, if Arizona were to be locked down and no food could be imported into the state, Arizona agriculture could feed the entire state for a period. This is a testament to the state’s agricultural prowess and why Burgess calls Arizona a Nutrition State!