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Study shows agriculture, forestry top employers in state

Published 8:08pm Monday, February 18, 2013

According to a recent study, the majority of the state’s economy and workforce can be credited to agriculture and forestry.

According to the study, $70.4 billion is generated annually from these two industries alone. Also, 22 percent of the state’s workforce is said to be employed in either agriculture or forestry.

“[Agriculture and forestry] have remained the top industries in the state throughout the development of other industries,” said Leigha Cauthen, director of Alabama Agribusiness Council.

The report titled “Economic Impacts of Alabama’s Agriculture, Forestry and Related Industries” was a collaborative effort of the Agribusiness Council, Alabama Cooperative Extension System, Auburn University and several other organizations.

Along with revealing agriculture and forestry as the state’s largest economic engine, the study also showed these two industries as the state’s second largest employer.

On average, one out of every 4.6 jobs in Alabama is related to agriculture and forestry, the study said.

“And that encompasses all different kinds of commodity groups,” Cauthen said. “Poultry, cattle, nurseries, landscape, row crops, timber — and also where these commodities are processed.”

According to the study, poultry and egg production are the top revenue-producing industries in the state with $15.1 billion produced in direct sales annually, accounting for 86,237 jobs.

Alabama’s top crops include beef cattle, cotton, greenhouse, nursery and floriculture, soybean, corn and wheat production.

“The findings from this study are a powerful tool for our industry,” Cauthen said. “This research highlights the importance of agriculture in our state’s economy by providing reliable and credible facts we can use as advocates for the state’s farmers, agribusinesses and rural land owners.”

In regards to the Black Belt region, Cauthen said agriculture and forestry continuously contribute greatly to the state economy, bringing in millions annually.

Gary Lemme, extension system director, said in a press release, that aside from providing a detailed picture of the impact agriculture and forestry have on the economy, the study also makes a case for continued investment in these two industries.

“We produce and process a wide diversity of products that not only are consumed here in Alabama but are exported to every corner of the world,” Lemme said. “The main goal of the study is to demonstrate the enormous and often understated presence of this sector, it’s enduring influence and, most important of all, its immense potential to all Alabamians and public policy officials.”

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