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On most every week, the job of being an agriculture reporter and editor is a good one. We cover technology advancements that revolutionize the way farmers feed the world. We write stories about farmers and their families devoting their lives to an industry they love. We interview important people who influence the industry by their decisions and actions. Sure, there's the occasional controversy. Industry groups have differing opinions and just can't seem to get along, but overall it's the kind of job that doesn't leave you depressed at the end of the day.

This week was different. News over the weekend of a fatal grain elevator explosion that killed six people in Atchison, Kan., was not the type of story that we want to cover. Six precious lives were taken and no words that I write will alleviate the pain of those families. The entire staff of High Plains Journal and I can only offer our sympathy and prayers and hope that it comforts them in some way.

Thankfully, the deaths are an uncommon occurrence in 2011, but that wasn't always the case. Over eight days of the Christmas holiday in 1977 and 1978, 59 people were killed in five separate grain elevator explosions.

In response, the U.S. Grain and Feed Association set about improving the safety for grain elevator workers by examining the cause of fires and explosions. The result has been a steady decline in the number of deaths and injuries. Before this accident, the most recent large explosion was 13 years ago in Wichita, Kan., killing seven people.

Thankfully, due to increased awareness and safety measures, the agriculture industry has been successful in reducing the number of accidents on the farm, in grain handling facilities and everywhere in between. Everyone in agriculture knows there are risks working in the industry. We are willing to take those risks because we love what we do.

As we stop to grieve for the people who lost their lives in the accident this week, let's turn this into a reminder of the message we need to convey to consumers. The business of delivering food to consumers' tables is a serious one. People risk not only their finances, but their lives as well so that no one goes hungry.

Farmers and ranchers are passionate about what they do. Simply put: They love it. They care for their land, their animals and their family. Those that serve American farmers and ranchers are also compassionate and caring. It makes for an entire industry I'm proud to be a part of. And for those reasons, my job and the news we report will be better next week.

Holly Martin can be reached by phone at 1-800-452-7171 ext. 1806, or by email at hmartin@hpj.com.

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