New reports show dominant role of agriculture and forestry in Alabama

Jun 25, 2013 by Jim Langcuster

A newly released series of reports demonstrates the dominant and, in many cases, indispensable role the agriculture and forestry sector plays in the economic fortunes of Alabama's 67 counties.

The reports, collectively titled the Economic Impacts of Alabama's , and Related Industries, are the result of a collaborative effort of the Alabama Agribusiness Council, the Alabama Cooperative Extension System, Auburn University and other businesses and organizations. It is a compilation of agricultural and forestry economic data collected from all of Alabama's 67 counties.

The comprehensive county-level data is available online: www.AlabamaAgImpact.com .

Deacue Fields, an Alabama Extension economist and chairperson of Auburn University's Department of Agricultural Economics and Rural Sociology, directed the study.

Leigha Cauthen, executive director of the Alabama Agribusiness Council, credits the report with providing a highly detailed and comprehensive picture of the impact of agriculture and forestry on local economies around the state.

The Agribusiness Council is a statewide agricultural organization that serves as the collective voice of Alabama agriculture.

"This will be a useful tool in bringing much-deserved attention to agriculture and forestry and how critical those industries are to our local economies," Cauthen says.

The newly completed study complements another statewide study, released in February, which demonstrated that agriculture, forestry and related industries contribute $70.4 billion to Alabama's economy, accounting for almost 40 percent of its GDP and employing 580,295 people – 22 percent of the state's workforce.

The new study, while complementing the earlier study, also illustrates how essential this sector is to the of many Alabama counties, says Gary Lemme, Alabama Extension director.

"Alabama agriculture and forestry industries drive the economy of all our rural communities," Lemme says. "Without this sector, many of our counties simply couldn't support their populations."

Lemme says it's important for county and local leaders not only to understand this basic economic reality but also to appreciate the importance of working closely with agricultural and forestry producers and processors as they develop new strategies for economic growth.

In addition to driving home this critical economic reality to local policy makers, he says the data outlined in the report will also provide county and other municipal leaders with valuable economic benchmarks to guide grassroots economic decision-making in the future.

Fields says this was a motivating factor behind these efforts.

"My hope is that when the impact generated by agriculture is documented, it will spark additional investment in the industry throughout the state," he says.

Both Cauthen and Lemme credit the report with illustrating the diversity of Alabama's agriculture and forestry sector.

"We're reminded of the critical role the catfish industry plays in west Alabama, not only as a dominant economic player but also as major employer," Cauthen says, adding that the same could be said for poultry and row crop production in north Alabama, the green industry in Jefferson, Baldwin and Mobile counties and peanuts in the Wiregrass."

Cauthen says the increasing value of Alabama row crop farming, which passed the billion-dollar mark this year, is one of many tangible examples of how agriculture and forestry sector is evolving to keep pace with the demands of the global economy – a change reflected in the steady adoption of precision farming methods, which have enabled farmers to reduce operating costs while securing higher standards of environmental stewardship.

Moreover, Lemme credits the report with helping illustrate the important role many Alabama agricultural counties will play in helping feed the planet as the world population surpasses more than 9 billion people by mid-century.

"The world will need to double its food production between now and 2050," he says. "And Alabama's ability to produce quality protein food sources such as poultry, fish, beef and soybeans matches the growing global demands."

Explore further: Pact with devil? California farmers use oil firms' water

Related Stories

Recommended for you

Gimmicks and technology: California learns to save water

Jul 03, 2015

Billboards and TV commercials, living room visits, guess-your-water-use booths, and awards for water stinginess—a wealthy swath of Orange County that once had one of the worst records for water conservation ...

Cities, regions call for 'robust' world climate pact

Jul 03, 2015

Thousands of cities, provinces and states from around the world urged national governments on Thursday to deliver a "robust, binding, equitable and universal" planet-saving climate pact in December.

Will climate change put mussels off the menu?

Jul 03, 2015

Climate change models predict that sea temperatures will rise significantly, including in the tropics. In these areas, rainfall is also predicted to increase, reducing the salt concentration of the surface ...

As nations dither, cities pick up climate slack

Jul 02, 2015

Their national governments hamstrung by domestic politics, stretched budgets and diplomatic inertia, many cities and provinces have taken a leading role—driven by necessity—in efforts to arrest galloping ...

User comments : 0

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.