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Jobs in Ag

Written by Dennis Sun

    Well, we’re starting a new year, and lately I’ve been looking for some positive stories and have found some. Those involved in the beef and cattle business are still in shock from the last half of 2015, but as I’m writing this column, I see that rib steak is on sale at the grocery store for $5.99 and sirloin tip roast at $2.97. I listened to a commodities broker the other morning saying that, with the savings in the price of gas, most consumers will be buying more beef, and we hope that beef is from America. Anything to raise the demand for beef should help back in the hills.

We also see the Mountain States Lamb Cooperative is in the packinghouse business now, and we wish them all the best on their new acquisition.

And the best news I saw this week is a story from Beef Magazine and others on the good jobs this nation’s ag industries have for youth just out of college. The article states, new information shows that bachelor’s degrees in agriculture are in high demand. Jeffery Dorfman with AgFax.com said, “People will always eat, so jobs in producing, processing, transporting and selling food will never go away. For good paying, rewarding and secure employment, college students would be well served to find a major in food and agriculture.”

According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), the five-year forecast for college graduates in agriculture and food industries shows there will be 57,900 jobs available per year. However, the nation’s agricultural colleges will only graduate approximately 35,400 students annually. Graduates who majored in fields outside of agriculture will fill a lot of these jobs as a result. However Dorfman said, “Employers much prefer graduates with more background in the field.”

The article states that production agricultural jobs only account for 15 percent of the available positions. Half of the jobs are found in business and management, 12 percent are in agriculture education, communication or government agencies, and 27 percent of these jobs are in the science, technology, engineering and math fields. The part important to youth raised on farms or ranches is that students with agriculture backgrounds already understand the industry, know how to “talk the talk” and appreciate the business – all traits that potential employers desire.

Plus, the jobs pay well. The article states, on average, annually an agricultural operations manager will earn $60,000, an agronomist $45,000, Information Technology (IT) managers in food and agricultural businesses $78,500, and starting agricultural jobs begin at $47,300 per year with a $5,000 bonus.

We don’t want all our youth to leave the farm or ranch, but if they want to or if they want to do something different right out of college, jobs should be there. Employers really like those with ag experience and, most important, their work ethic – they stay until the job is finished, not what the clock says.

Land-grant colleges, like the University of Wyoming, are great places to study agriculture, with great professors, small classes and a ton of scholarships to help the students. They say now the average student loan debt load for a 2015 college graduate is $35,000. Our students need all the help they can get.