McAuliffe: Agriculture, forestry economic impact has increased by $21 billion

A new comprehensive study shows Virginia’s agriculture and forestry industries contribute $91 billion annually to the commonwealth’s economy. That represents a 30 percent increase over results of a 2013 study that found a $70 billion annual economic impact.

virginia“I am excited to see the agriculture and forestry industries have significantly increased their economic impact in just four years,” McAuliffe said. “As the commonwealth’s first- and third-largest private industries, agriculture and forestry play a vital role in the new Virginia economy. This is the kind of growth we are looking for in Virginia to keep us as the top state to do business in, a leader in export and trade, and a top destination for visitors who are seeking out our agritourism venues and our state’s natural beauty.”

The industries’ total employment impact increased by about 7 percent, from 414,700 to 442,200 jobs, representing about 9 percent of total employment in the commonwealth.

“This is wonderful news for agriculture and forestry, which have always been the No. 1 industry in Virginia,” said Tony Banks, a commodity marketing specialist for Virginia Farm Bureau Federation. “Our farming members and organization as a whole are so proud of the industry and glad it is continuing to show an increase despite recent downturns in farm gate prices for agricultural commodities.”

According to the study, agriculture accounts for $70 billion of the $91 billion total, and forestry contributes $21 billion.

Related activities such as recreational opportunities, wildlife habitat, ecosystems services, agritourism, wine tourism, equestrian events and agricultural festivals were not included in the study but would add significantly to the total economic impact figure. Findings of a Virginia Tech study released in April found that agritourism alone contributes $2.2 billion annually to the state’s economy, and study findings released in January noted that the wine industry contributes $1.37 billion.

In addition to tangible benefits such as cash receipts and jobs, agriculture and forestry landscapes afford substantial environmental and other societal benefits. Rural landscapes provide scenic amenities that contribute to quality of life. Forests improve air and water quality, mitigate flood vulnerability, provide wildlife habitat and aid biodiversity.

The study was led by Dr. Terry Rephann of the Weldon Cooper Center for Public Service at the University of Virginia. A full copy is available on the Virginia Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services and Department of Forestry websites.