Today’s Economy, Political Rhetoric Too Often Don’t Match

Today's economy is much different than what we hear in the rhetoric from current politicians. We need our leaders to wrestle with current problems rather than old ones.

Americans love farms and ranches for all kinds of reasons. Agriculture provides not only food, but also wildlife habitat, scenery, and a sense of place that enriches those of us fortunate to live in the rural West.

But let’s not kid ourselves. It has been a long time since farms employed many people. Yet this hasn’t stopped yet another crop of western political candidates from repeating, as often as they can, that agriculture is the region’s number one industry, or that it is a major employer. As one Montana candidate recently said: “one in five jobs in the state is related to agriculture.”

Jobs and Labor Earnings in the West (2012)

So while agriculture often serves as a draw for tourists, retirees, workers, and entrepreneurs who prefer to live near cows and wheat farms rather than in a congested city, overall–using U.S. Department of Commerce statistics–less than five percent of all jobs in Montana are on farms and ranches. Across the West as a whole it is even smaller, less than two percent.