Report shows Connecticut agriculture worth $3.5 billion a year
By Nancy Weiss
Economic Impacts of Connecticut’s Agricultural Industry doesn’t have the ring of a best seller, but for anyone concerned about the future of agriculture, the 27-page report bearing this title is a blockbuster.
Lead author Rigoberto Lopez, professor and head of the Department of Agricultural and Resource Economics, notes that the study is the first to document the total economic value of agriculture to Connecticut’s economy.
Co-authors Deepak Joglekar and Chen Zhu from the Department of Agricultural and Resource Economics joined Lopez. Peter Gunter and Fred Carstensen provided input from the Connecticut Center for Economic Analysis in the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences.
Agriculture is a $3.5 billion a year industry, about the size of the current state budget deficit, according to the comprehensive study. It provides more than 20,000 jobs and “generates approximately $1,000 in sales per Connecticut resident.”
“We spent a lot of time agonizing over the definition of agriculture. We were very, very careful, “says Lopez.
The study worked within specific parameters, defining the agricultural industry as “crop and livestock production, forest products, and the processing of the state’s agricultural production.” Peripheral sectors such as landscaping and grounds keeping, bakeries and distilling were not included in the definition, although such activities are economically important.
“There was a need felt to do the study. There was a strong demand. We saw an opportunity to contribute to policy makers and show how much agriculture is worth in the state,” says Lopez. “Numbers drive policy, shape its direction. Numbers, especially credible numbers, are important for policy decisions.”
Building on the success of a report on the dairy industry conducted two years ago, Lopez and the other experts used three standard models to capture scope, linkages and the contribution of agriculture to statewide output and jobs.
The results are surprising, demonstrating the importance of agriculture as being significantly larger than previously thought. Connecticut ranks as the third smallest state in the nation, but Connecticut’s 4,916 farms, which average 82 acres, are first in New England in terms of market value per farm and per acre, according to the study.
Media coverage of the report was extensive and much more than the authors had anticipated. Every major newspaper in the state, numerous radio stations and Connecticut Fox News broadcast findings from the report.
For Lopez and the other authors as well as the stakeholders from nearly every agricultural organization in the state, the exposure for the College of Agriculture and Natural Resources and the Department of Agricultural and Resource Economics is most welcome.
“We were able to build goodwill and to open many doors with our constituency. We will continue to collaborate and work with stakeholders and state agencies in future studies,” says Lopez.
To read the report, go to http://web.uconn.edu/are/.