Agriculture is #1
Changes in how we produce food has to be the number one reason rural America and Bourbon County are shrinking; however, agriculture continues to be a major economic influence in rural America and the number one industry in BB. Consider the following 2017 statistics about BB agriculture from the State of Kansas:
Total acres in BB: 406,701 Acres farmed: 335,935, or 82.6%
Total farm employment: 821, or about one in ten workers
Agricultural product sales: $79 million
Cattle population: 71,079, or about 5 cows per BB resident
It does not take an economist to discern that Bourbon County income spent in-county helps us all, but we must have outside money coming into the pool to grow. Right now, for every $1 earned by a BB resident, only 70 cents is spent in BB, including money spent by outsiders. Much resident money goes to KC, Joplin, Internet sites, and even Iola, Pittsburg, and Nevada. Allen County, which has a population that is more than 2,000 people less than BB, collects far more sales tax than we do annually. They draw a significant amount of shoppers from Woodson, Anderson, and, yes, BB. The drive time for Allen County residents to shop in Wichita, Joplin or KC is prohibitive, so they are more inclined to shop at home.
This basic economic principle accentuates the critical nature of agriculture here, because the vast majority of the $79 million farm product sold in 2017 was to people and corporations who domicile outside of BB. That represents new dollars in our economic engine. Much of that money is spent in stores and restaurants in our towns. Ranchers drive significant miles to sell cattle in our livestock auction, then eat and shop in BB while they are here. Agriculture remains, and will continue to be, a strong driver of the BB economy.
What is my point? Thank God for every farmer/rancher you encounter. React with patience when you see a livestock trailer or farm implement around town. Greet these hardworking Americans with the respect that they are due. Create promotions in your business to attract them and show your appreciation. Attend the Bourbon County Fair and buy a premium on the animal of a 4-H participant at the auction. Attend Pioneer Harvest Fiesta and learn about the history of agriculture in this region.
The BEDCO Board of Trustees, along with our new Executive Director, Rob Harrington, will be exploring ways to invest in our agriculture and agri-business communities by attracting investment and grant money to our county. We will be investing our time, talent and treasure in every sector of our county, including our number 1 industry, agriculture.