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Perspective: Agriculture needs the global economy


Have you seen the social media posts with comedian Melissa McCarthy on her jet ski going to the cargo ships sitting in the oceans for Christmas shopping? You’ve heard all the things ahead of this holiday season: Start shopping two months ago because the products aren’t going to be on the shelves, support local companies instead, buy made-in-America products because they don’t get stuck on cargo ships, etc.

I’m all about supporting American businesses. I’m here for that. I am. But, I’m also very thankful for a global economy. Did you know in order to put “made in America” on a product, only just over 50 percent of the parts of the product have to be manufactured in America? Just over 50 percent. That’s it. It doesn’t mean that it doesn’t get some of its pieces off those cargo ships. It just means that over 50 percent is made here. Labels can be incredibly deceptive.

I can think of so few things that actually have zero influence from the global industry. For example, my cows never leave Kansas, let alone the United States, while on the hoof. But if I didn’t have access to the global market, how I grow those cattle would change dramatically.

My reasoning? I like to check my cows on the four wheeler in the summer and feed them with the pickup or tractor in the winter. All of those vehicles have products that come from overseas. I like to feed the cattle hay grown on our operation, but without filters, oil, and other products for our haying equipment from across the ocean, I wouldn’t have that hay. I like to keep records on my laptop that came from a global market.

Even when the cattle go to the processor. I’m going to guess that a lot of the products needed to build the plants, transport the beef inside the plant, package the beef for shipping back out, the trucks to get the beef in and out, let alone the majority of the labor force that run those processing facilities originated outside the United States.

You get the point. My cattle are grown in Kansas. A product that I could very easily justify putting a “made in America” sticker on has a heck of a lot of global influence incorporated in to it. So by supporting myself and buying beef from me, a local farmer, you are indeed helping your local economy — but I need the global market too.

Let’s talk about the simple logistics of getting products, made in America or overseas, to our doorsteps. We need those products to be made in the first place with a labor force and the pieces necessary. Once they are made, they need to be transported from their origin to a shipping destination, whether that be a warehouse, post office, train, semi truck, or cargo ship. This is probably done with bulk product. We need a driver to drive those vehicles.

Image courtesy of
Steve Lovegrove, Shutterstock

Then once the products have arrived where they need to go, they need to be unloaded. Remember this is all in bulk so far. Then they need to be sorted. Then they probably need to be shipped again. And on and on again until it reaches your house somehow. We need a labor force at all of these stops along the way. Yes, we are mechanizing some of these stops with robots and other forms of artificial intelligence, but we still need human beings along all these stops, sometimes just fewer.

We need a workforce that’s willing to work. Not one sitting on couches getting unemployment checks. Everywhere you go is hiring. People are desperate for warm bodies to do work. I want to live in a country where we get to choose our profession, not one where it is chosen for us. I; however, also don’t want to be supporting television watching, able-bodied beings through my tax dollars when there is work to be done.

If COVID has taught us anything, I hope it’s shown us how small the world actually is. Something that happens across the world in China has huge impacts on us in a very short amount of time. People are constantly moving around the world. We cannot feasibly live without the rest of the globe.

Buying local, supporting small businesses, getting products that are “made in America” is all well and good, but please quit thinking that just because it has a “made in America” sticker doesn’t mean that parts of it didn’t come from the cargo ships sitting in the ocean.

All forms of industry needs a global economy. We need the rest of the world to build pieces of products for us. We need the rest of the world to buy our products. America agriculture is leading the world, but without somebody to sell to, we would be competing against ourselves trying to figure out a market for our product. We are a global economy.


Kelsey Pagel is a Kansas farmer. She grew up on a cow/calf and row crop operation and married into another. Kelsey and her Forever (Matt) farm and ranch with his family where they are living their dream and loving most of the moments.

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