The U.S. economy is strong. The Gross Domestic Product has grown more than 3 percent this year. The contrast between the agriculture economy, which is struggling, and the overall economy can make it seem they’re on opposite tracks. But the data tell a different story: the broader economy is doing well in large part because of agriculture.
Consider these points:
- Agriculture and its related industries (things like food sales and other industries that wouldn’t exist or would be much smaller without agriculture) contribute $1.05 trillion to U.S. GDP, according to the latest data. That puts agriculture’s contribution to the overall economy at about 6 percent.
- Whether someone works on the farm, for a food manufacturing company, in a restaurant, or in a clothing or lumber store, that person’s job depends on American agriculture. They would not have anything to process, package, market, sell or serve if it wasn’t for farmers and ranchers. In fact, it is estimated that more than 43 million U.S. jobs are connected in some way to agriculture.
- Counting the impact of things that farmers and ranchers need to be productive, such as equipment purchases and maintenance, fertilizer, crop protection products, research and development, and a range of services like financial services and transportation, America’s farmers and ranchers play an even bigger role in our nation’s economy.
- According to one study, members of the food and agriculture industries and their employees pay almost $900 billion in federal, state and local taxes, helping to support their communities and our nation.
Even though this is a challenging time for many farmers and ranchers, we are proud to celebrate America’s economic growth and proud of what we do each day to feed and fuel our nation.
Congress right now is putting the finishing touches on a new farm bill. It’s easy to think, based on its name, that the farm bill only benefits farmers. Of course, with nutrition programs making up about 80 percent of the farm bill, and commodity programs and crop insurance only accounting for about 15 percent, it’s obvious that there’s much more to the farm bill than farming. But even if you just focus on the portions of the farm bill that directly apply to farmers and ranchers, those programs are an investment in a significant piece of our national economy. A strong agriculture sector benefits many other sectors and fuels the economy overall—while also keeping food on our tables.
When I see reports about the surge in the U.S. economy, I think about the millions of farmers and ranchers who help make it happen—one seed, plant, tree, fish or animal at a time.
Vincent “Zippy” Duvall, a poultry, cattle and hay producer from Greene County, Georgia, is the 12th president of the American Farm Bureau Federation.