Farming: It’s Not All About US as Individuals

September 18, 2012

Most of us think of “real farming” as the place we happen to be practicing or living it (in my case reporting or photographing it).  Individually, that means our mindset is all about row crops or catfish ponds in the Mid-south, or Midwest corn and soybeans, or even the diverse fields of California crops from artichokes to cotton.

But what about the northeastern part of the country?

Reminds me, did you ever see one of those gimmick maps of the U.S. where the state of Texas is larger than the rest of the country put together? I think that’s what many of us envision about the northeast.  Everything above Virginia must be an extension of New York City, right? Nope. Not right.

Contrary to the information we are usually exposed to, the business of agriculture, including commercial fishing and forestry, are key to the success of the northeastern region, which means they are key to our entire nation (including Texas!).

A recent study from Farm Credit East, the largest lender to Northeast agriculture, found that: the 64,570 farms and related businesses throughout the six-state region of Connecticut, Massachusetts, New Jersey, New York, New Hampshire and Rhode Island produced an estimated $71 billion impact on state output in 2010 and resulted in 379,000 jobs on and off the farm.

Below is a quick state-by-state summary of the report, Northeast Agriculture: The Overlooked Economic Engine, compiled by Farm Credit East based on information generated from an independent study completed by Dr. Rigoberto Lopez from the University of Connecticut:

Farm businesses create economic activity and jobs not only on the farm, but also through (1) farm services businesses which are upstream to farming and would include suppliers, repair, equipment, lenders, insurance, etc., and (2) processing activities which are downstream to farming and would include dairy processing plants, sawmills, wineries, etc. The following information highlights the agricultural impact on the six Northeastern states’ economies:

  • New York State contributes a $38 billion impact on state economic output, with $15.6 billion being value-added activity. In addition, New York agriculture generates 196,200 jobs, both on and off the farm, statewide. Milk and cattle production accounts for 40 percent of the total agricultural output impact generating nearly 28,500 jobs.
  • Massachusetts agriculture and related processing activities is responsible for $13 billion in output, with $5.5 billion being value-added, which stays within the community. In addition, Massachusetts agriculture generates 68,110 jobs. Commercial fishing is the state’s largest sector, at $1.5 billion in output and more than 12,000 jobs, but the cranberry and greenhouse industries are also major economic contributors.
  • New Jersey has a long history of farming and fishing as indicated by the approximately $11.5 billion impact on state economic output and 61,000 jobs generated statewide. Greenhouse and nursery production is the state’s largest sector with $919 million in output and 8,864 jobs generated.
  • Connecticut contributed $4.6 billion in output and generated more than 26,700 jobs. Greenhouse and nursery production is the state’s largest sector generating $457 million in output and 4,782 jobs.
  • New Hampshire’s forestry products industry has a financial impact of over $1 billion. Combined with other agriculture and related processing activities, the New Hampshire agriculture and forestry industry contributes $2.5 billion in output and 18,500 jobs statewide.
  • Rhode Island Commercial fishing dominates Rhode Island with $172 million in output and 2,400 jobs generated. As a whole, the Ocean State’s farming and fishing industries generated approximately $1.1 billion impact on state economic output and generated 7,500 jobs statewide.



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