This was underscored by a recent study, “Economic Impacts of Alabama’s Agriculture, Forestry and Related Industries,” compiled through a collaborative effort led by Auburn University. Complementing a statewide study released last February, this new analysis gives counties the data leaders need to enable them to (a.) work closely with agricultural and forestry segments of their economies and (b.) develop plans for the future.
Across the state, agriculture, forestry and related industries contribute an estimated $70.4 billion to the economy and employ more than 580,000 full- and part-time workers. That is 40 percent of Alabama’s GDP and 22 percent of its workforce.
On a local level (http://www.aces.edu/impact/ag), agriculture, forestry and related industries have an $883.5 million impact on the Calhoun County economy and employ 10,537 full- and part-time workers. Poultry and egg production leads the way, with greenhouse, nursery and floriculture coming in a distant second.
Looking in on more rural counties, it’s apparent how important agriculture and forestry is, as well. While only 16.5 percent of Calhoun County’s workforce is employed in agriculture and forestry, in Sumter County more than 56 percent work in those segments. And Sumter is only one of many where agriculture and forestry drive the local economy.
Reviewing the data underscores the diversity of Alabama’s agriculture and forestry sectors. From catfish farming in west Alabama to peanuts in the Wiregrass, from the forest to the mills, agriculture, forestry and related industries contribute to the state’s economy in many ways.
As the world’s population grows, that contribution will become all the more important because food production will have to grow as well. When it comes to feeding a hungry world, Alabama’s rural counties, often neglected and often ignored, could well become the most important counties in the state.