By Mike Barnett
It’s Texas best kept secret: Agriculture is a powerhouse not only in providing the food we eat but in generating jobs and value throughout the economy of the Lone Star State.
According to a study of the Texas High Plains region conducted by Texas Tech University and Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service, crop production accounts for about 15 percent of the entire area’s economy.
That adds up to $12.24 billion in crop output alone. Add an additional $4.66 billion in value-added economic activity resulting from crop production. Oh, and don’t forget: crop production directly accounts for more than 103,000 jobs, about 20 percent of employment in the region. Add in livestock and the total economic activity jumps to about one-third of the region’s economy. That’s about $24 billion.
That’s a lot of dough flowing from the farm gate to the local economy. Who benefits? Everyone, from the farmer and rancher, to the banker, to the car dealer and to the hard working men and women who depend on agriculture-generated jobs to take care of their families.
The study measures the traditional impact of a wide variety of economic activity including production costs (seed, fertilizer, fuel, labor and equipment) as well as post-production processing from area crops, including livestock and dairy usage, cotton gins, grain elevators and other revelant processing. The new twist is the study includes the effects of the spending by businesses and individuals who earn income from all of these activities.
It’s a unique approach that is being tested for the first time anywhere in the 41 counties from the top of the Texas Panhandle to Midland.
“We’re really on the forefront of being able to determine the full impact of agricultural production to the regional economy, not just a piece of it,” said Bridgett Guerrero, one of the lead researchers and a program specialist with Texas A&M AgriLife Extension. “We felt with the traditional model, we were missing the entire financial impact.”
Telling that story–with hard facts and indisputable figures–becomes increasingly important as agriculture has a bullseye on its back for everything from farm program spending to water use.
Show individuals how agriculture affects them–and they’re likely to work with farmers and ranchers instead of against them.
Kudos to Texas Tech and Texas A&M AgriLife Extension for developing this new model. It’s one I hope will work for other regions of the state as well.