Today, I’d like to talk about the importance of being thankful, but first, I have to talk turkey. Arkansas turkey to be exact.

Turkeys are one of Arkansas’s many claims to fame for which we can be thankful, right up there with the Buffalo National River and the World’s Championship Duck Calling Contest.

In 2020, Arkansas farmers raised 31 million turkeys, which puts Arkansas second in the nation for the number of turkeys raised. That’s 595 million pounds, which is 14 percent of all turkeys produced in the United States

The Arkansas turkey industry creates and supports more than 17,500 jobs. Cargill and Butterball, two of the largest turkey companies in the United States, have facilities in four Arkansas cities: Jonesboro, Springdale, Huntsville and Ozark. Every Butterball-branded whole turkey is raised in Arkansas.

If we kept all Arkansas-raised turkeys in the state, each of our more than 3 million residents could have approximately 10 turkeys. That’s not how life works, unfortunately. And as we observed the second Thanksgiving of the pandemic, some of our family, friends, and neighbors struggled to put food on the table.

Many have lost loved ones to COVID-19, and the cost of fuel, food and merchandise has increased over the past year.

During this time of year, we become acutely aware of the plight of the less fortunate, and our nonprofit organizations are tireless in their efforts to help.

The Arkansas Hunger Relief Alliance, the state’s six food banks and the more than 700 agencies that distribute food around the state ran and are running at full steam to assist as many people as possible.

But with all the challenges, there is much to be grateful for, even with Thanksgiving over and Christmas approaching. The United States has observed a day of thanks all the way back to our founding. But it was Abraham Lincoln who made it official with a proclamation in October 1863, a decision that was rooted in his desire to see an end to the Civil War and peace among all the states.

In words that remain as timely as the day he read them, the president noted that the nation had continued to prosper in spite of the war, and that except on the fields of battle, “order has been maintained, the laws have been respected and obeyed, and harmony has prevailed everywhere.”

Lincoln recommended that as Americans thanked God for his protection, they also should care for those who had become widows, orphans, mourners or sufferers. He asked Americans to “fervently implore the interposition of the Almighty hand to heal the wounds of the nation, and to restore it, as soon as may be consistent with the Divine purposes, to the full enjoyment of peace, harmony, tranquility and union.”

His words are a constant reminder to trust God and be thankful.

Asa Hutchinson is the 46th governor of Arkansas. To contact him, visit governor.arkansas.gov/.

Asa Hutchinson is the 46th governor of Arkansas. To contact him, visit governor.arkansas.gov/.

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