Cows mug for the camera at El Toro cattle feed yard in Heber. | FILE PHOTO

LETTER: Eat Beef on 2021 National Ag Day

On Tuesday, March 23, National Agriculture Day, we celebrate and promote American agriculture. While we encourage you to eat a healthy salad and enjoy a heaping side of fresh vegetables, we also want you to consider the main dish … BEEF.

Shelby Dill is executive director of the Coalition of Labor, Agriculture and Business of Imperial County

A popular fact about the Imperial Valley that you might’ve heard before is we produce over half of the nation’s vegetables in the winter months. While this is incredibly impressive, beef is actually the single largest “crop” in the Imperial Valley. Cattle has been the number one commodity since 1957, and throughout those years, has fed millions of people. In Imperial County, over 390,000 head for cattle is here at any given time. Did you know we have more cattle than people in the Imperial Valley?

While you might believe that with such production numbers, we would have many cattle feeders throughout the county; however, you would be mistaken. Our local cattle feeders are to thank for producing such high quantities of quality beef. Some of those feeders include Brandt Beef, El Toro Land & Cattle, Foster Feed Yards, Mesquite Cattle, Moiola Brothers, Phillips Cattle, RJ Cattle Feeders, Superior Cattle, and Westmoreland Cattle. Next time you run into one of these great cattlemen, be sure to thank them for the hard work they put into providing Americans with high-quality, safe, and extremely nutritious protein.

The Imperial Valley is also incredibly unique in the fact that we are vertically integrated. We produce the forage that is fed to the cattle. Of the almost half million acres under cultivation in the Imperial Valley, about 40 percent to 45 percent of the total acreage is in alfalfa. An estimated 10 percent of the alfalfa produced is sent to local feedlots to feed the cattle. Combined with our mild temperatures and lack of rainfall, there is no doubt why Imperial Valley is the best place to produce beef.

As the largest single sector in agriculture, the beef industry provides over 500 full-time jobs to the Imperial Valley. Our local feedlots take great pride in providing high-quality, consistent full-time jobs with benefits. Considering we have one of the highest unemployment rates in the nation, this industry makes a significant contribution to economic output and development in the county.

The cattle are fed for on average 350 days, and most of the cattle are sent to One World Beef, a local packing facility. From there, the meat is sent to grocery stores across the world! The impact our small county has across the globe is truly remarkable.

On National Agriculture Day, eat beef from a local meat market.

Shelby Dill is executive director of the Coalition of Labor, Agriculture and Business of Imperial County

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