Agriculture is an $8 billion industry in Delaware, according to a recent study published by the Department of Food and Resource Economics in the University of Delaware’s College of Agriculture and Natural Resources.
The study — conducted by UD faculty members Titus Awokuse and Tom Ilvento, with help from graduate student Zachary Johnston — used input-output analysis, taking into account the market value of products sold from on-farm production, revenue from processing and manufacturing of agricultural products, and inter-industry linkages to determine the value added to the economy.
A study of this magnitude had not been conducted since the early 1980s. According to the authors, this new report is much more accurate in its calculations for the true impact of agriculture in Delaware.
Historically, $1.1 billion has been the most commonly cited number for the impact of agriculture in Delaware. “But this is the total market value of agricultural products sold at the farm level, just a small piece of the picture,” according to Awokuse, associate professor and director of graduate studies for food and resource economics.
The new report shows that the processing of farm products adds a previously unaccounted for $3.8 billion. Forestry production and processing add an additional $831 million, with ag-related services (i.e. crop dusting, ditch digging) adding $28 million.
The research project was commissioned by Robin Morgan, dean of the college. “This study was needed because the impact of agriculture in Delaware is much larger than farm receipts and (the impact) should account for processing of agricultural products. Agriculture is a large and vital part of Delaware’s economy, and our understanding of its impact needs to be as accurate as possible,” says Morgan.
In addition to the total industry impact, the report provides separate results by county and for several key agricultural commodities: poultry, dairy, fruits and vegetables, corn, soybeans, wheat, greenhouse, nursery and horticultural products.
With Delaware’s long history of poultry production, it was no surprise to the authors that the majority of the economic value of agriculture comes from the production and processing of poultry products, with an industry output of $3.2 billion and over 13,000 jobs.
The report also provides a summary of statistics relative to the changing face of agriculture in Delaware, noting there are fewer farms in Delaware, but the size and productivity of farming operations has increased over time.
Awokuse notes that this trend is in large part because “both technological and biological innovations within agriculture now allow a single operator to be more productive and maintain a larger operation, hence the consolidation of farms across the state.”
And, according to the authors, the state of Delaware agriculture will continue to change.
“Farmers are being asked to produce more on less and less acreage and they turn to science and technology to make that happen. Agriculture is a modern, efficient, technologically advanced industry, even if the image is still rooted in a 19th century image of farming,” says Ilvento, professor and chair of the Department of Food and Resource Economics. “Changing that image, assisting farmers to find modern solutions, and promoting the importance of agriculture — that’s what our college is all about.”
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