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Posted: March 19, 2012

Best-kept secret for job hunters

This sector is often overlooked

Rodney Patterson

Despite recent reductions in unemployment levels, the overall state of the United States economy remains less than encouraging for those seeking job opportunities. Yet there are bright spots in areas that the average job seeker might neglect to consider. Throughout the turbulence of the past few years, agriculture has remained one of the strongest sectors of our economy. Though the USDA has predicted that net farm income will decline in 2012, cash income for agriculture in the past decade is still one-third higher than it was in the previous decade. Rural land values in the U.S. have increased by up to 80 percent, and agricultural exports have almost tripled in the past three years. In fact, agriculture may be one of the best kept secrets in the marketplace.

JOBS IN RURAL AMERICA

When people think of jobs in agriculture, they tend to think only of the farmer in his field or the rancher with his herd. But the opportunities are much broader than that. U.S. agriculture is an extremely sophisticated industry that requires extensive infrastructure.  Crops and livestock must be delivered, creating jobs in the transportation industry. Grain has to be stored and animals housed creating jobs in construction. 

As you read this, engineers are perfecting new and better ways to use GPS to plant seed, apply protection materials and harvest crops. Agricultural cooperatives around the country are hiring sales people, marketing specialists, customer service personnel, accountants and finance experts. And scientists are working on refining crop nutrients and increasing yields. Indeed, the Bureau of Labor Statistics has predicted that employment of agricultural and food scientists will grow by 16 percent between 2008 and 2018. That’s faster than the average for all occupations.

Opportunities abound and do not necessarily require previous agricultural experience. Many of the skills learned in corporate America are easily transferable to agriculture and to the other businesses that support rural America. According to AgDay.org, only 10 percent of Americans are involved in traditional farming; however, there are approximately 22 million people who work in agriculture-related fields.

THE FARM CREDIT SYSTEM

Take the Farm Credit System, for example. Many people outside the world of agriculture do not realize that there is an extensive network of financial services providers dedicated to supporting the rural economy. The Farm Credit System is comprised of 84 cooperatively-structured retail lending associations and four wholesale banks located throughout the United States. Metro Denver is home to two of those organizations, Greenwood Village-based CoBank, the largest bank in the Farm Credit System and one of the top 25 banks nationally; and FCCServices, a consulting services firm that supports the Farm Credit network.

Unlike many other financial institutions, Farm Credit has not only weathered the recession, it has thrived – and is hiring! Farm Credit currently has more than 200 career opportunities available in areas such as credit, finance, leasing, human resources, insurance, audit, information technology, legal and marketing. These jobs are available in both rural and urban communities and more are being added all the time.  

 Even during tough economic times, agriculture serves Colorado by producing fresh quality food sources for consumers locally and around the world. And agriculture serves Coloradans by supporting more than 100,000 jobs, statewide. Colorado agriculture businesses are strong and thriving, and they offer great opportunities for career success now and in the future.

Rodney Patterson is Corporate Diversity and Talent Management Officer at CoBank. With more than 20 years of experience in the field of diversity, Rodney brings a wealth of knowledge to his position as Corporate Diversity and Talent Management Officer for CoBank. He is responsible for driving diversity, inclusion and engagement throughout CoBank and the Farm Credit System. Prior to joining CoBank in 2011, Rodney served a wide range of corporate clients, including Farm Credit, as a senior facilitator for the Boston-based consulting firm, Global Novations, and as director of consulting and talent management for Hudson Highland, a leading global provider of talent management solutions. Before entering the corporate world, he spent nearly 15 years in academia leading diversity-related activities.

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