Have you hugged a farmer lately? That may be going to the extreme but this is National Agriculture Week and the state’s Ag Secretary Bill Northey says it’s time to recognize the hard work of all farmers and others involved in the ag industry, while working to raise awareness of the impact U-S agriculture has on the national and global economies.

Northey says he wants to make sure agriculture isn’t taken for granted in Iowa. "I get a chance to talk to folks from outside the state and they know that Iowa’s a very strong ag state," Northey says, "Ag is very important economically but even culturally to this state."

Just how important is agriculture to Iowa? Northey says you’d have to think in billions of dollars. Northey, a corn and soybean farmer from Spirit Lake, says: "It’s about 25-percent of the state’s economy, so very, very significant, larger than most states and probably larger than most people realize it is. It depends on how you cut it but probably 25-percent of the G-D-P (gross domestic product) of the state is related to agriculture." He says the rich soil and vast landscape has made Iowa one of the most productive areas for food and livestock production in the world for decades.

It’s still too early for farmers’ markets though, so how does Northey recommend Iowans show their appreciation this week? "Just going to the grocery store is an act of supporting agriculture. We produce a lot of the food that’s in those grocery stores and as time goes on here, we’ll have a little more chance for folks to find those Iowa products." Northey says a statewide program is in the works to highlight home-grown produce of all kinds. He says, "We have some designation that we’re working with folks. That designation will be ‘Choose Iowa’ and it will be a product that was produced, manufactured or packaged here in the state of Iowa and they’ll be able to look for that."

Iowa is the nation’s leader in a host of agricultural products, including: hogs, corn, soybeans, eggs, ethanol and biodiesel.