Agriculture is the largest industry in Alabama, contributing nearly $5 billion to the state’s economy. The overall impact of agriculture to Alabama is linked to a broad range of direct and indirect economic sectors including food and associated product manufacturing, wholesale and retail distribution, input supplies, support services, etc. In addition to farming, this includes other diverse enterprises like fertilizer manufacturing, sawmills, fruit and vegetable processing, landscaping, wholesale food distributors, retail food stores, restaurants and other food service establishments, retail garden centers, and the sod and poultry industry. When it comes to urban versus rural counties, the economic impacts of agriculture in urban counties are large, but, as a percentage, they are small when compared to the percentage of economic impact to rural counties.
While this is relevant information, those involved in the small ruminant (goat and sheep) industry and associated government service sector might like to know what their special interest means to Alabama. For our benefit, USDA’s National Agricultural Statistics Service (NASS) conducts a cyclical census of agriculture and gathers such relevant information. The Alabama Field Office of NASS was kind enough to provide me with relevant information which allowed me to identify and enter the data into tables regarding the impact of the small ruminant industry in Alabama. For the sake of time and space I will break this information down into two separate articles with part two, Implied Values of Animal Inventories on Farms, to follow in August. Data for this information was obtained from the following NASS report - Table 2. Market Value of Agricultural Products Sold Including Direct Sales: 2007 and 2002, where there is a category for sheep, goats and their products. From Table 2, I was able to single out information from 2007 (the most recent Census of Agriculture) with projected values on a statewide and county-by-county basis. Regarding the question marks seen in certain cells, in these situations there was incomplete information for these counties. I hope this gives you a greater appreciation for the small ruminant industry.
While all this information is five years old, it is the most current set of information available at this time; NASS will begin conducting another census of agriculture this year and probably present the information in 2013. You are likely to receive their survey in the near future, please provide the relevant information to the best of your ability as it holds influence on the future of the small ruminant industry.
Economic analyses in many states show agriculture and natural resources are linked to a broad array of economic sectors for commodity production, and food and related product manufacturing, distribution and relevant service activities. These industries collectively have a significant economic impact on any state’s economy. However, to those of us involved with the small ruminant industry we are more concerned with the $3,128,000 impact of the market value of goat, sheep and their products sold within Alabama.
Robert Spencer is an Urban Regional Extension Specialist with the Alabama Cooperative Extension System.