NAMPA, Idaho — About 220 people attended Canyon County’s first-ever Ag Forum, which brought local business leaders together with farmers, who drive the county’s economy.
The two-hour forum hosted by the Nampa Chamber of Commerce will become an annual event and one of its main focuses will be, “How do we protect an asset that is very important to our community?” chamber president and CEO Debbie Kling said.
The event is designed to bring farmers and the business community together and help facilitate the continued development of agriculture and agribusiness in Canyon County, she added.
“What can we do in Canyon County, in Nampa, Homedale, Parma and Caldwell to (foster) the long-term relationship with agriculture and business that can take us into the future?” Kling said. “We are going to look at how we can build these relationships going forward.”
The forum included about 20 farmers, representatives of major agribusiness and seed companies, FFA members, and leaders of the county’s business community.
“Farm Bureau could not have scripted this any better,” said Caldwell farmer Sid Freeman, president of Canyon County Farm Bureau, a major sponsor of the event.
Freeman said his group would help ensure the forum continues “next year and the year after and the year after. We’re going to make it happen.”
Attendees heard presentations from Gov. Butch Otter, a rancher who was born in Canyon County, and Idaho State Department of Agriculture Director Celia Gould.
Otter and Gould praised the chamber for hosting the event.
“The Nampa Chamber gets it. You understand the importance of Idaho agriculture to your economy,” said Gould, who also encouraged farmers to tell the story of agriculture to non-farming audiences.
“We do not do a good job of telling our story,” she said. “We can’t do that any more. We have to let people know who we are and what we do for them. We need to tell the story.”
There are almost 2,400 farms in Canyon County, far more than any other county in Idaho, and they produce about $420 million annually in cash receipts.
Though small in size compared to other Idaho counties, Canyon County farmers produce about 140 different agricultural commodities.
One of the event’s purposes was to highlight how important agriculture is to the local and state economy and Chanel Tewalt, assistant to the ISDA director, reminded people that both farm-gate receipts and ag exports in Idaho set records in 2013.
“Agriculture generates more sales in Idaho than any other industry, it touches every person and every corner of the state and, when agriculture does well, we all benefit,” she said.
Michael Swanson, an agricultural economist for event sponsor Wells Fargo, told the audience that global monetary and political issues could impact how U.S. agriculture fares in the near future.
However, he added, “Wells Fargo thinks agriculture is going to be one of the (United States’) bright spots for many, many years (to come).”