From staff reports
The News Courier
Limestone County ranked first in the state in soybean production and fifth in cotton production in recent years, according to newly released reports from a team of Alabama Cooperative Extension economists.
The reports — titled “Economic Impacts of Alabama’s Agriculture, Forestry and Related Industries” — demonstrates the dominant and, in many cases, indispensable role the agriculture and forestry sector plays in the economic fortunes of Limestone and Alabama’s 66 other counties, according to the Extension Service.
Agriculture and forestry contributes $70.4 billion to the state’s economy, accounting for almost 40 percent of its gross domestic product and employing 22 percent of its workforce, according to the report.
In Limestone County, $235.9 million was generated through the county’s agricultural and forestry production sectors in 2010. Poultry and egg production was the largest agricultural commodity, contributing 60.8 million dollars.
Limestone ranked first in the state in soybean production. It is the second-largest agricultural commodity, contributing 23.4 percent, or $59.3 million, of the county’s agricultural production. Limestone ranked fifth in cotton production, generating $35.5 million. The livestock industry contributed $6.2 million to Limestone.
Another fact from the study: Alabama’s agriculture and forestry sector is roughly as large as the economies of Hawaii and West Virginia and is larger than the economies of several nations.
Leigha Cauthen, executive director of the Alabama Agribusiness Council, credits the report with providing a highly detailed and comprehensive picture of the impact of agriculture and forestry on local economies around the state.
The report, which provides economic data from all of the state’s 67 counties, is a collaborative effort of the Alabama Agribusiness Council, the Alabama Cooperative Extension System, Auburn University and other businesses and organizations. It is available online at www.AlabamaAgImpact.com.
“Alabama’s agriculture and forestry industries drive the economies of all our rural communities,” said Dr. Gary Lemme, Alabama Extension director. “Without this sector, many of our counties simply couldn’t support these populations.”
Leaders need to know
Lemme says it’s important for county and local leaders to not only understand this basic economic reality but also the importance of working closely with agricultural and forestry producers and processors as they develop new strategies for economic growth.
In addition to being big, and in many cases, indispensable, this facet of the economy is also highly diverse — a fact also reflected in the county data.
“We’re reminded of the critical role the catfish industry plays in west Alabama, not only as a dominant economic player but also as a major employer, Cauthen said, adding the same could be said about poultry and row-crop production in North Alabama; the green industry in Jefferson, Baldwin and Mobile counties; and peanuts in the Wiregrass.
Lemme also credits the report with illustrating the important role Alabama communities will play in helping feed the planet as the world population surpasses 9 billion people by mid-century.