Impact of US agriculture validated in new economic study

Published 4:17 pm Wednesday, March 30, 2022

Agriculture is the backbone of America, and a new study commissioned by 30 leading farm and food advocacy groups has the data to affirm that.

The coalition — Feeding the Economy — released its 2022 Food and Agriculture Industries Economic Impact Study March 22 in conjunction with National Agriculture Day.

The basis of the study was to quantify the contributions of the American agriculture and food sectors to the U.S. economy in 2021.

The corresponding report identified the number of jobs, wages paid, value added and total output of the U.S. agriculture and food sectors. It also measured the economic impact of suppliers supporting the two sectors, as well as the businesses aided by the industries’ direct spending.

The findings revealed 7% of the U.S. economy and 29% of American jobs are tied to the two sectors, whether directly or indirectly. The total impact of agriculture and food was found to be $7.43 trillion.

Additionally, both combined to provide 43.46 million jobs, $2.3 trillion in workers’ wages and $718.15 billion in tax dollars.

The Feeding the Economy coalition noted the report “underscores the resiliency and strength of America’s food and agriculture sectors.” And, despite the challenges of the COVID-19 pandemic, the industries continued to add jobs and provide safe food for consumers amid global supply chain shortages.

“American agriculture is really the foundation of our lives and our economy,” said Dr. Roger Cryan, chief economist for American Farm Bureau Federation, one of the study’s sponsoring organizations. “This study reveals the numbers — and maybe some of the spirit — of this one indispensable sector.”

Data also was calculated at the state level, and the study found Virginia’s agriculture and food sectors provided over 518,161 direct jobs and produced $62.8 billion in economic output.

Agricultural goods produced in Virginia also contributed $3.85 billion in agricultural exports and $16.4 billion in tax revenue in 2021, according to the report.

“Agriculture has long been Virginia’s largest industry, and our farmers’ dedication to providing the nation’s food, fiber and fuel continues to be a key driver of the state’s economy,” said Tony Banks, senior assistant director of agriculture, development and innovation for Virginia Farm Bureau Federation.

“Feeding the Economy’s report and similar studies help support this fact and reinforce the importance of agriculture locally and nationally,” he added. “They also increase public awareness of farming, which ultimately helps the cause of farmers everywhere.”