— MONTGOMERY, Ala. (AP) — Agriculture, forestry and related industries have an annual economic impact in Alabama of $70.4 billion, according to new statistics prepared for counties in the state.
The study was conducted by Auburn University and the Alabama Cooperative Extension System. It shows that the Alabama counties where agriculture has the greatest economic impact are Mobile, Cullman and DeKalb.
The data includes the number of jobs created that are related to the agriculture and forestry industries. The report also includes the number of farmers in each county and the acreage farmed.
The executive director of the Alabama Agribusiness Council, Leigha Cauthen, said the report shows how critical industries related to agriculture are to local economies in Alabama.
She said agriculture and related industries account for more than half of the jobs in some counties.
"This will be a useful tool, bringing much-deserved attention to agriculture and forestry and how critical those industries are to our local economies," Cauthen said.
She said the figures show that the statewide impact of agriculture on Alabama and individual counties is tremendous.
Mobile County topped the list of heavily affected counties, thanks in part to the county's many greenhouses and the prolific floriculture business, one of the best producing in the country. Floriculture accounted for more than 40 percent of Mobile County's total agricultural and forestry production.
County Extension Coordinator Jim Todd said the nursery business as well as the area's abundant commercial seafood industry gave the county its high ranking.
Aided by mostly good weather and the area's economic diversity, the county can produce agriculture products ranging from shrimp to pecans, azaleas and row crops, Todd said. He said the county's ability to ship products all over the world through its port helps agriculture production across the state.
Cullman County was ranked second in terms of the impact of agriculture, according to the study. The county was first in the state poultry and egg business.
Cullman County Extension Coordinator Tony Glover said he believes the area's prolific agriculture community helps county officials recruit all types of new industry.
"When they see the farmers coming in so strong, they say 'these people work hard,'" Glover said.