Supporting agricultural producers and the supply chain is critical because South Dakotas 29,000 plus farms and ranches represent a proud part of our state's heritage, history, and economy. We are among the nation's top ten in agricultural and contributing $25.6 billion to South Dakota's economy each year as well as accounting for more than 115,000 jobs. South Dakota's prosperity depends on supporting and strengthening our farms and rural communities throughout our state.
Agriculture is cyclical in nature. Farmers and ranchers make large capital investments in their crops, livestock, buildings, and equipment; sometimes facing heavy losses due to natural disasters and market circumstances beyond their control. South Dakota has experienced storms, drought, disease outbreaks, and flooding in recent years, all of which have cost our farmers and economy millions of dollars. I am committed to maintaining a strong, fair safety net for South Dakota farmers to help them survive disasters and periods of low prices.
I also believe that farm-based, homegrown biofuels are critical to both our rural economies and our nation's energy security. Annually, South Dakota produces more than one billion gallons of ethanol supporting thousands of jobs and contributing millions to our state's economy. And during periods when we have seen volatile gas prices, biofuels have helped reduce the cost for consumers at the pump by as much as $1.50 per gallon. As we continue our push to move our nation toward energy independence, we need to be supporting the farmers and ranchers. From traditional biofuels like ethanol and biodiesel to the next generation of cellulosic ethanol made from prairie grass to wind energy to electricity made from livestock waste, our farmers will play a key role in charting our new energy future.