Agriculture's importance to state outlined in study $17.8 billion industry provides 410,409 jobs, touches far more lives

Maryland economy

December 17, 1998|By Ted Shelsby | Ted Shelsby,SUN STAFF

Agriculture is a $17.8 billion-a-year business in Maryland, sustaining more than 400,000 jobs, according to a federal study released yesterday.

"It's a big industry that probably touches every person in the state in some form or fashion," Ray Garibay said in presenting the results of the survey by the U.S. Department of Agriculture's Economic Research Service.

Garibay, head of agricultural statistics for the Maryland Department of Agriculture, said the USDA used the same formula for determining the economic impact of agriculture on Maryland's economy as it does in measuring the financial importance of farming nationally.

S. Patrick McMillan, assistant to Maryland Agriculture Secretary Henry A. Virts, said the survey substantiates the department's claim that agriculture is the state's largest industry.

"If you are trying to determine the economic value of agriculture in the state, I would think the survey is correct," said Pradeep Ganguly, director of business and economic research for the Maryland Department of Business and Employment Development.

"I don't dispute their estimate of 410,409 jobs related to agriculture," he added.

In determining the economic impact of agriculture, the USDA used a broad definition that included the production of food and fiber. Fiber covers the making of fabric, clothing and footwear from plants, animal fiber and hides.

In a breakdown of agriculture's impact on other sectors of the state's economy, Garibay said that it accounts for 130,632 jobs in retail trade, generating $3.7 billion in sales.

It is the source of 118,041 jobs and $2.5 billion in revenue at eating and drinking places.

The study concluded that 6,362 of the state's 183,000 construction jobs are linked to farming.

Production agriculture -- the growing of crops, dairy farming and raising of livestock -- generated farm sales of $1.7 billion in the state last year. Farms employed 13,187 workers.

"One of the best things about agriculture is that it creates wealth and value each year," said Thomas Fretz, dean of the University of Maryland College Park College of Agriculture and Natural Resources.

Garibay said Maryland ranks eighth in the nation in the value of crops produced per acre of land. The average revenue for each (( acre of farmland is $733 in Maryland.

Pub Date: 12/17/98

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