Up on the Farm

    by CLC Staff

    For the first time, the Agriculture and Agribusiness Sector has surpassed $100 billion in its contribution to North Carolina’s $662 billion Gross State Product, the state analog of the nation’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP).

    This according to North Carolina State University economist Professor Emeritus Mike Walden, who has been compiling and reporting these numbers every year since the 1980s. The latest figure of $103.2 billion is from the year ending 2021, the most recent data available from the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA). It shows that the Agriculture and Agribusiness sector was not only able to make up the $3 billion loss experienced during the pandemic year of 2020, but that it came roaring back by surpassing the average 3.47 percent rate of growth (since 2015) by more than 7 percent to 11 percent.

    “Agriculture is not crop production as popular belief holds – it’s the production of food and fiber from the world’s land and waters,” once observed the noted ecologist Allan Savory. “Without agriculture, it is not possible to have a city, stock market, banks, university, church, or army. Agriculture is the foundation of civilization and any stable economy.”

    North Carolina is #8 of agricultural-producing states, with more than 46,000 farm operations and an average size of 184 acres. More than 1,600 farms are classified as “century farms,” meaning they have been owned by the same family for more than 100 years.

    “North Carolina’s Agriculture and Agribusiness Sector has quickly rebounded from the challenges presented during the pandemic,” said Walden. “North Carolina’s agriculture and agribusiness sector continues to be a key driving force of the state’s economy, and the sector will help North Carolina prosper and grow in the future.”

    The new total includes income from the state’s food, fiber, and forestry industries, reflecting jobs and income in farming, manufacturing, wholesaling and retailing — following the supply chain from production to consumption. According to Walden, the Agriculture and Agribusiness Sector employ nearly 20 percent of workers in North Carolina, or 736,679 of the state’s more than 4.5 million employees.

    According to the USDA’s Economic Research Service, the Agriculture and Agribusiness Sector contributed 5.4 percent to the nation’s Gross Domestic Product and provided 10.5 percent of total U.S. employment.

    “When I took office in 2005, the economic impact of agriculture and agribusiness was $59 billion and $100 billion seemed like a good goal to work toward.” commented N.C. Agriculture Commissioner Steve Troxler. “In 2016, I made a prediction that North Carolina’s agriculture and agribusiness industry would soon reach $100 billion. I’m proud to say that we’ve reached that goal and surpassed last year’s economic impact by more than 11 percent. Reaching this milestone is a big accomplishment for everyone in agriculture and agribusiness and proves how much we can accomplish when we are all pulling together.”

    Quick Agricultural Facts by State (2021)