From the tractor
by Agriculture Commissioner Steve Troxler
Agriculture continues to remain strong in this state according to the latest information on overall economic impact. In fact, the latest numbers we received indicate it is now a $77 billion industry, based on the 2011 agricultural statistics – the latest available. That is a $5 billion or 7.5 percent increase from the previous year.
Mike Walden, a William Neal Reynolds Professor and Extension Economist at N.C. State University, recently released the latest agriculture and agribusiness numbers showing the jump. Figures include food, fiber and forestry statistics, and factors in value-added income.
In breaking down the numbers, agriculture and food industries accounted for $67.4 billion or 15 percent of the total North Carolina income, natural fiber industries accounted for $4 billion and forestry industries accounted for $5.6 billion of the overall total.
These new numbers further cement agriculture and agribusiness as the state's top industry. About a fifth of our state's workforce, or 642,000 people, are employed by these industries.
One of the surprising things about the numbers is that 2011 was a difficult year weather-wise for farmers. We had tornadoes, drought, Hurricane Irene, and some farmers were affected by all three disasters. Corn and tobacco crops especially were hit hard by the weather.
But the jump also reflects the strength of commodity prices, which have been up significantly in some cases.
I think there is still room for growth, and that is one of the things I have been recently talking about with legislators and Governor McCrory. I believe we can grow agriculture into a $100 billion industry in this state. I believe it will take continued investment in agricultural marketing and research, along with sound ag policies. As more and more people seek locally grown foods and as we increase exports of North Carolina agricultural products, this industry will grow.
I know we can do this. We have the natural resources and the farmer know-how to advance this industry. Through the years, our state has invested, and continues to invest, in agricultural research through our 18 research stations operated in joint cooperation with N.C. State University and N.C. A & T State University. This partnership has produced results for farmers through increased yields, lower production costs and better plant varieties.
I have said that North Carolina needs to build on its strengths, agriculture is definitely a strength. It is good to see this backed up by these growing economic numbers.