Study: Agriculture Plays Important Role in Utah Economy

February 11, 2013

Agriculture continues to play an important role in Utah’s economy, according to a Utah State University study.

The study found that when taking into account related industries such as food processing, agriculture contributed $17.5 billion to the state’s economy in 2011, or 14.1 percent of the total. It also found that agricultural production and processing directly and indirectly generated about 78,000 jobs and $2.7 billion in compensation.

The study, released Friday at the Utah Department of Agriculture and Food offices, took a broader view of agriculture’s impact than previous studies by examining all related sectors.

Study co-author Paul Jakus, an economics professor at USU, said most people tend to think of the industry in terms of growing crops and raising cattle and overlook the processing sector, which includes plants where dairy and meat products are made.

The food processing sector accounts for 15 percent of all manufacturing jobs in Utah, with the jobs averaging more than $18 per hour.

State Agriculture Commissioner Leonard Blackham said farming retains an important role in Utah’s modern economy.

“Farming is part of our history and part of our culture,” he said. “When you go into the rural areas of our state, everyone likes to see a nice farm.”

The strongest sector in Utah’s agricultural market is dairy farming, accounting for 22.5 percent of the cash receipts in 2011. Cattle comes next at 19.4 percent, followed by hay at 15.4 percent.

Overall, agricultural production and processing grew by 15.1 percent from 2008 to 2011, according to the study. The state’s agricultural cash receipts soared by nearly 50 percent over the same period.

Blackham stressed that Utahns can help the state’s economy by purchasing locally grown or processed foods identified by the “Utah’s Own” label.

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