Farming impact exceeds pre-pandemic level

A boost in jobs, wages, exports and tax revenues shows the robust growth and enduring impact of U.S. food and agriculture sectors.

A recently released Feeding the Economy report revealed food and agriculture industries and their suppliers contribute over $8.6 trillion to the U.S. economy— nearly one-fifth of total national output and a 22% increase since a 2019 report.

The report said total food and agriculture jobs are up 1.5% since 2019. Total wages are up 26.2%, tax revenues rose 3.8% and exports jumped 24.4%.

The economic impact study was commissioned by 25 food and agriculture groups, including American Farm Bureau Federation.

Tony Banks, senior assistant director of Virginia Farm Bureau Federation agriculture, development and innovation, said the data also underscores the agriculture industry’s resilience amid global and domestic crises, including the commodity shock following the war in Ukraine and continued supply chain disruptions.

“The report reinforces that agriculture is evolving and innovating to meet the demands of the 21st century,” Banks said.

All 50 states displayed increased economic output compared to the 2019 report, largely reflecting a rebound in national economic activity. The largest gains in total output were from Hawaii, North Dakota, New York, Nevada and Florida.

This upward trend is reflected in Virginia as well.

A 2021 study by The Weldon Cooper Center for Public Service at the University of Virginia provided a comprehensive representation of the contributions that agriculture and forestry industries contribute to the commonwealth’s economy. It showed the impact of those industries has grown since 2017, with a statewide economic impact over $105 billion in 2021, compared to $98.2 billion in 2016.

“Like many industries, Virginia’s agriculture and forestry sectors were profoundly impacted by the pandemic,” said Matthew Lohr, Virginia secretary of agriculture and forestry. “However, both sectors have recovered lost ground and forged ahead to support Virginia’s overall economy.”

Agricultural producers are making gains with less land and fewer inputs, he added. According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, between 1948 and 2019, land use for agriculture decreased by 28% while land productivity nearly quadrupled, and labor productivity grew more than 10 times. Agriculture’s total factor productivity growth rate is among the highest of U.S. sectors.