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: .

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: Mining can damage fish habitats far downstream, study shows

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

Recommended for you

Tool kit for ocean health

1 hour ago

The ocean is undergoing global changes at a remarkable pace and we must change with it to attain our best possible future ocean, warns the head of The University of Western Australia's Oceans Institute.

Researcher studies interactions between land and water

1 hour ago

Early one morning last January, MIT undergraduate Theresa Oehmke was eating breakfast at the Kilauea Military Camp on Hawaii's Big Island when a colleague burst into the room, yelling, "Oh my god, the plume, ...

Geoengineering our climate is not a 'quick fix'

3 hours ago

The deliberate, large-scale intervention in the Earth's climate system is not a "quick fix" for global warming, according to the findings of the UK's first publicly funded studies on geoengineering.

US to propose stricter smog standard

5 hours ago

Coming full circle on a campaign promise, the Obama administration will propose Wednesday to reduce the amount of smog-forming pollution allowed in the air, which has been linked to asthma, lung damage and ...

Sao Paulo drought issue for global concern

5 hours ago

He cast his rod happily here for 30 years—but where a river once teemed with fish, Brazilian fisherman Ernane da Silva these days stares out over a valley of weeds and bone dry, sun-parched land.

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.