Ohio agriculture packs an $80 billion punch

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SALEM, Ohio – The average Ohioan doesn’t think of agriculture as a major economic force in the state, but the ag industry contributed $79.6 billion to Ohio’s economic output in 2000.

It also accounted for 15 percent of Ohio’s employment and 9 percent of Ohio’s total income.

The study that found these numbers, recently released by Ohio State University, looked at farm inputs and machinery, farming, processing, food and forestry wholesale/retail, and food services.

Size of impact. According to Tom Sporleder, agricultural economist and lead researcher, the numbers indicate approximately 10 percent of the Buckeye State’s economy is related to this agricultural cluster.

Food processing is one of the most vital parts of this cluster, contributing $5.6 billion of Ohio’s gross state product out of the $36.5 billion generated by the entire cluster.

The gross state product is a means of measuring economic activity. Agriculture contributed 10 percent of Ohio’s total gross state product.

Making a connection. Sporleder said people underestimate the impact of agriculture in some ways. “They don’t ever really think of where the milk in the grocery store comes from,” he said.

That’s one purpose of this study – to make people connect agriculture with food and help define the supply chain, said Sporleder.

Sporleder also said that unless the economy is examined in terms of clusters like this one, the industry’s impact will be greatly underestimated.

Just a snapshot. The study was not intended to help make predictions about the future. “It’s more like a snapshot,” said Sporleder.

The structure of the economy changes slowly on a percentage basis, but in terms of dollars, it changes quite a bit.

Sporleder said that trends in Ohio continue to point to urbanization. “Where ever there is a conflict between cows and people, people win,” he said.

Employment. Agriculture accounted for more than 1 million Ohio jobs in 2000, which breaks down to one out of every seven jobs. Food services and the food and forestry wholesale/retail sector are responsible for 79 percent of agricultural employment and 10 percent of Ohio’s total employment.

Jack Fisher, executive vice president of the Ohio Farm Bureau Federation, said this survey helps show how many jobs in Ohio are interrelated and that without basic, raw products, all industries would suffer.

Fisher also said the survey results indicate a positive future for agriculture.

“Ohio agriculture is a growing, dynamic industry.”

Ohio has the unique element of rural, urban and suburban areas within a fairly small space, Fisher said. The state has the potential to excel in open-air farm markets and in the nursery and landscaping industry because of those combined characteristics.

On the traditional front, however, Fisher said Ohio will have to work to maintain its livestock and crops.

Grasping the concepts. People feel good about farmers and agriculture, but they don’t fully understand either one, the farm leader said.

Fisher said the quality of life Ohioans have is due to agriculture, and agriculture and manufacturing continue to be vital parts of Ohio’s economy.

Neighboring state. No comparable ag impact studies could be located for Pennsylvania, but agriculture is the No. 1 industry in the state.

There are about 59,000 farms in Pennsylvania and the state ranks No. 1 in the number of acres being used agriculturally.

Exports. According to the 2000-2001 Pennsylvania Agriculture Statistics Book, published by the Pennsylvania Department of Agriculture, Pennsylvania exported $619 million in agricultural products in 2000 and 2001.

The USDA National Agricultural Statistics Service reported that production agriculture in Pennsylvania generates more than $4.5 billion annually in cash receipts.

The dairy industry ranks first in Pennsylvania’s agriculture industry. It falls behind only three other states in milk and ice cream production.

Cattle. There are 1.6 million head of cattle in Pennsylvania, making it sixth in the United States in the number of cattle and 11th in commercial red meat production.

There is also a $5 million investment in the 200,000 horses in the Commonwealth. Investments in equine supplies total $3 million.

Twenty-one million Pennsylvanians are employed in agriculture or a related industry, which breaks down to one out of every five.

(Janelle Baltputnis welcomes reader feedback by phone at 1-800-837-3419, ext. 21, or by e-mail at janelleb@farmanddairy.com.)

About the Author

Former reporter Janelle Skrinjar wrote for Farm and Dairy from 2005 to 2009. More Stories by Janelle Skrinjar

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