Ag economy continues to grow despite challenges

Agriculture and food production’s contribution to Ohio’s economy continues to grow, but the industry also faces significant headwinds, according to a new report produced by Ohio State’s College of Food, Agricultural, and Environmental Sciences.

“According to the Economic Contribution of Agricultural and Food Production to the Ohio Economy report, agricultural and food production in Ohio continues to grow despite decreasing employment and decreasing commodity prices,” said Cathann A. Kress, vice president for agricultural administration and dean of CFAES. The report examines trends in Ohio’s agricultural and food production sectors, analyzing data from 2015, the most recent statistics available.

The report credits improved technology, rising crop yields, farmer creativity and lower prices for farm inputs for the continued increase in agricultural productivity. Farm incomes have steadily improved too, having increased an average of 2.2 percent a year since 2005.

“Farmers have always been innovative,” said Brandon Kern, OFBF senior director for strategic partnerships and policy outreach. “Technological advances have helped improve efficiencies that allow agriculture’s contribution to our economy to grow. Farmers and the ag industry have made great strides despite the continued challenges we face.”

While productivity has increased, the industry does face decreasing commodity prices and has seen a significant reduction in employment in the agricultural and food sector, according to the report. While income has grown overall during the 10-year period analyzed in the report, farm income has actually fallen in recent years.

“Those are statistics that shouldn’t be taken for granted,” Kern said. “Policymakers need to understand the challenges the industry faces today. We have huge opportunities for growth in employment in our broad food and agriculture sector but we need policies that support that growth.”

Among other positive trends highlighted in the report is that Ohio’s restaurants and bars have experienced strong growth. Restaurants and bars employ 496,342 Ohioans, a 37.5 percent increase since 1994.

The report is the result of a collaborative analysis and writing process that included the CFAES Department of Agricultural, Environmental, and Development Economics outreach committee, external peer reviewers and stakeholders. The last report outlining the contribution of Ohio’s agriculture and food-related industries to the state’s economy was released in 2012.