By Julie Tomascik

Farmers and agriculture are number one in my opinion. And now a recent poll that tracks American’s views of various business and industry sectors agrees.

For the first time in 20 years, agriculture and farming is the clear leader in Gallup’s industry poll.

In previous polls, farming and agriculture were already among the top-rated industries. But now they confidently hold the top spot. Click here to see the list.

They’re followed by the grocery, restaurant and computer industries.

From the fields to the jobs it creates, agriculture is diverse. It’s unique. And so are the farmers and ranchers that make up the industry.

But to survive in this business, they have to be tough.

They endure the demands of the field. Market swings can take their toll, and consumer opinions could leave a harvest at risk.

Then there’s the countless hours spent in the fields and pastures working the land. The sweat. Blood. A few tears. And thousands of dollars for fuel and equipment.

Yet farmers and ranchers keep going.

Even when it means spending many early mornings and late nights away from family and friends and missing special events like weddings, birthdays and ballgames.

And lying in bed at night, they say their prayers, too—for their family, friends and consumers like you and me. For their crops and livestock. For rain or sunshine.

Because they work for more than just themselves and carry a heavy burden. Only a few—less than 2 percent—are tasked with feeding a growing population amid daunting regulations.

And, after all that, a paycheck isn’t waiting every two weeks.

But it’s the satisfaction of a hard day’s work and of doing something for others, fulfilling dreams and facing the uncertainty with unwavering faith and optimism.

Farmers and ranchers are the beating heart of Texas, America and our future.

And I’m glad the Gallup poll shows Americans recognize the important role they play.

Let’s celebrate their hard work with a juicy steak, cold glass of milk and plenty of vegetables.