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In 2020, a Time for Prayer and Thanksgiving

Sonny Perdue, U.S. Secretary of Agriculture

November 24, 2020

Americans are no stranger to adversity and this year presented a new and difficult challenge with a sinister virus. But now more than ever we must cherish the good times and give thanks to those who selflessly serve us during our times of trouble. This Thanksgiving will be a lot different for many Americans as some of us have not seen our families in a long time out of a noble desire to protect the ones we love. But as we sit around dinner table and break bread, let us say an extra prayer for the folks who grew this food and brought it to market - the essential workers who toil in the fields and the store workers who put it on the shelves so that we may eat.

This is what Americans do when times are tough - we adapt and we overcome. The same thing is happening with truck drivers, food processors, grocery store workers, and others in the food supply chain. They know their fellow Americans depend on them. Store shelves across the nation are getting stocked and goods are being delivered to market.

This pandemic has opened our eyes to where our food comes from. So many Americans know more about the food supply chain now. Can you imagine if we had to depend on other countries for our food? We are so blessed in this country to be food independent thanks to the abundance our farmers reap year after year.

America’s farmers and ranchers are on the job during this pandemic, but so are their employees. These crops won’t get planted and they won’t get picked if we can’t get them out of the field. Agriculture depends on a hardworking farm labor force, those working in our fields, packing houses, processing facilities, and dairies.

USDA’s Food Safety and Inspection Service workers are on the front lines, day in and day out, to make sure our food is safe, just like they always have. There are over 6,500 food safety workers on the front lines working in 175,642 commercial facilities across the country inspecting nearly 164 million heads of livestock, 9.83 billion poultry carcasses, and conducting 7.1 million food safety and food defense procedures.

When you sit at the table this Thanksgiving and take a slice of turkey, a scoop of sweet potatoes, a piece of pumpkin pie, and a serving of cranberry sauce—remember the families of farmers who toiled the land for your meal. Millions of American families are expected to feast this Thanksgiving. The sweet potatoes on the table most likely came from North Carolina where the Scott family has been farming for six generations. The pumpkin in your pie was probably grown in the Land of Lincoln—Illinois farms 11,000 acres for pumpkins, the Nation’s largest producer. Your cranberries most likely came from a bog in Wisconsin, where $143 million in cranberries are grown every year. Finally, your turkey was likely raised in Minnesota, the largest producer of turkey in the country.

In fact, America’s turkey producers are the most productive in the world, roughly 1,900 family farms raise approximately 198 million turkeys each year. While this Thanksgiving will look different, American families are expected to roast nearly 46 million turkeys and eat over 50 million pumpkin pies, all while stimulating the rural economy and impacting the lives of thousands of food industry professionals, small business owners, and farmers – right when they need it most.

Thanksgiving has always been about connecting with our fellow Americans, family members, and loved ones and to recognize the sacrifices of our fellow citizens.

President Abraham Lincoln proclaimed this holiday in 1863 during great conflict. In 1942 during the darkest days of World War II, President Franklin D. Roosevelt was inspired by the faith and courage of David in Psalm 23, taking solace in knowing the Lord will provide, “The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not want…Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow or death, I will fear no evil: for thou art with me; thy rod and thy staff they comfort me. Thou preparest a table before me in the presence of mine enemies: thou anointest my head with oil; my cup runneth over.”

The holidays give us a chance to take a moment and reflect on our blessings. While things are not easy, we must remember what’s important: family, friends, and those who sacrifice so we can spend the day feasting with our loved ones. So, when you sit down at the dinner table this Thanksgiving, remember to be thankful for the harvest and show gratitude to the American farmers, the essential workers, and the service members who will not be with their families this Thanksgiving.

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