In the 2017 edition of the University of Georgia Small Business Development Center’s publication, “Small Business and Its Impact on Georgia,” the article below titled, “Importance of Agriculture in Georgia” written by Dr. Kent Wolf, UGA College of Agricultural and Environmental Science, was featured.
The business of Agriculture has long been an important part of Georgia’s economy and will continue to be a driving force at the local, state, and national level. Georgia has the unique attribute of being home to a diverse array of food and fiber production and a rich assortment of the related economic sectors that make the entire system work. Together, these directly and indirectly related industries account for over $74.3 billion dollars in output contribution to Georgia’s $907.7 billion economy. This economic role also includes over 411,500 jobs for 2014.
Georgia is host to over 42,000 farms encompassing more than 9 million acres spread throughout the state. Though sometimes overlooked as part of Georgia’s thriving small business community, 88 percent of these farms are considered to be small businesses in terms of annual sales (2012 Agricultural Census, USDA). The Bureau of Economic Analysis reports nearly 35,000 farm proprietors, consisting of both sole proprietors and non-corporate partners as owners.
These facts demonstrate that the robust Agriculture and related sectors not only contribute to our state and national and world-wide prominence, but comprise a critical part of the small business sector as well. On a local level, the economic contribution of these food and fiber industries – including landscape services – ranges from a few million to a few billion dollars of county output and often boasts thousands of jobs for the local agriculture and related sectors.
The UGA College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences Center for Agribusiness and Economic Development (CAED) gathers data annually on these production values in the Farm Gate Value Report. CAED economists conduct further analysis to calculate the total economic contribution of all the sectors involved in this production from seeds and fertilizer to processing for the range of different commodities, including row and forage crops, vegetables, fruits and nuts, ornamental horticulture, forestry, livestock, aquaculture, poultry and eggs, and agritourism.
This food and fiber production earns Georgia top ranking in the nation in many sectors, including number one in blueberry production, broilers, peanuts, pecans, rye, and onions. Georgia ranks second in the nation for cotton, cucumbers, pullets and watermelon; third for bell peppers, peaches, and sweet corn.
Changing consumer eating patterns open many opportunities for these agribusiness entrepreneurs as consumers are looking for new, interesting, and innovative food products. The growing diversity in Georgia and the nation has created opportunities for agribusinesses that supply food products. For instance, the number of ethnic markets outside of Atlanta alone carry numerous products that are not currently grown in Georgia. In addition to agricultural production, growing ethnic populations provide opportunities for value-added products and processing of agricultural commodities.
The Georgia Department of Agriculture is implementing the 2020 Vision for School Nutrition in which they are striving to get at least 20 percent of school meals comprised of Georgia-sourced products by the start of the 2020 school year. Further, 20 percent of schools will be challenged to reach 50 percent of their menu content sourced from Georgia. This will create opportunities for producers across the state. Larger farms may not be geared toward a program like this or they may be constricted contractually, unable to take advantage of these types of initiatives.
There is continued interest and demand for local foods across the state and nation, playing out in national retail chains as well as restaurants and institutions. These prospects exist and are cultivating new markets for the agribusinesses entrepreneur – not only in providing raw commodities but in value-added products.
The world population is continuing to grow. It is estimated that there will be an additional 2.4 billion people on the planet in 2050. To meet the needs of this growing population, Georgia farmers will have to produce more products. At the same time, these growing markets will demand different type of food products that can be grown here in Georgia. As emerging economies become more affluent, they are increasing their demand for protein products. Therefore, the growing world population will continue to provide opportunities for farmers across the state.
Article Written By: Dr. Kent Wolf, UGA’s College of Agricultural and Environmental Science