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Impact of Alabama agriculture, forestry industries tops $70 billion

MONTGOMERY, Alabama — The Alabama agriculture and forestry industries remain powerful economic forces in the state, according to a fresh report that assesses their impact at $70.4 billion annually.

The February 2013 analysis, prepared by Auburn University’s Department of Agricultural Economics and Rural Sociology, also identifies the agriculture and forestry industries as major employers in the state, with 580,295 jobs linked either directly or indirectly to their activities. Only the manufacturing sector provides more jobs in Alabama.

“This study clearly indicates that agriculture, forestry and agribusiness are the backbone of Alabama’s economy, amounting to some 40% of the state’s $175 billion gross domestic product,” John McMillan, commissioner of the Alabama Department of Agriculture and Industries, told the Cherokee County Herald.

The report, titled “Economic Impacts of Alabama’s Agricultural, Forestry and Related Industries,” was the first such study to examine the scope of the two industries since 1989. Among the findings:

  • The annual economic impact of forest product manufacturing, ranging from the output of paper, paperboard and pulp mills to stationery manufacturing, was estimated at $20 billion.
  • Poultry is a major economic segment. Production of poultry and eggs was projected to have an annual economic impact of $5 billion in Alabama, while the processing of poultry products added another $10.1 billion in impact.
  • The annual economic impact of the peanut business in Alabama was estimated at $211.4 million, soybeans at $258.5 million, and cotton farming at $290.1 million. Cattle ranching and farming had an estimated impact of $524.5 million, while the impact of the catfish business was calculated at $158.2 million.
  • The agriculture, forestry and related industries have an annual output impact equal to $10,770 for each person in Alabama.
  • One out of every 4.6 jobs in the state is related to Alabama agriculture, forestry or a related industry.
  • Poultry and egg production provides nearly 26,000 direct and indirect jobs in Alabama, while commercial logging provides employment for nearly 10,300 people, counting spinoff jobs.

“Growth in our sector, thanks to strong foreign demand for farm commodities, has been steady and the outlook is positive,” McMillan added.

Officials said the report underscores the fact that the forestry and agriculture industries should not be overlooked in discussions about expanding the state’s economy.

“We produce and process a wide diversity of products that not only are consumed here in Alabama but are exported to every corner of the world,” Gary Lemme, director of the Alabama Cooperative Extension System, said in a statement.

The report was a collaborative effort of the Alabama Agribusiness Council, the Alabama Cooperative Extension System, Auburn University, the Alabama Farmers Federation and other businesses and organizations.

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