Arizona agribusiness contributes a record $23.3 billion in sales to the state's economy, according to a new report by the University of Arizona Cooperative Extension’s Economic Impact Analysis Team. The report was released Nov. 3 to farmers and ranchers gathered at the Arizona Farm Bureau's annual meeting in Mesa, Arizona.
In addition to its $23.3 million economic impact, agribusiness directly and indirectly supports more than 138,000 full- and part-time jobs. The report also ranks Arizona among the leading states in the production of lettuce, spinach, broccoli, cauliflower, cantaloupe, honeydew and other commodities.
The study was done by Ashley Kerna Bickel, Dari Duval and George Frisvold of the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences' Department of Agriculture and Resource Economics. They say the $23.3 billion includes indirect and multiplier effects, and is based on sales output in 2014. Frisvold said the study also shows the diversity and uniqueness of Arizona's agribusiness system.
"For example, vegetable and melon farming and agricultural support services are a huge industry in Yuma County, dairy and feed crop production are especially important in central Arizona, and agribusiness wholesale is a major driver of the Santa Cruz County economy," Frisvold said.
The report found that a number of Arizona counties rank in the top 1 percent of all U.S. counties when it comes to different measures of crop and livestock production, and the vast majority of Arizona farm operations are family-run operations and partnerships.
Farm industry representatives say the UA study is important for Arizonans.
"For you and me as Arizona consumers, it means that we have direct and indirect benefits from the agriculture Arizona farmers and ranchers create,” said Arizona Farm Bureau outreach director Julie Murphree. "Directly, because we need food and fiber to live; indirectly, because this primary industry means that manufacturing and services sectors can exist. Agriculture is so important to all of us."
Arizona farmers say the public release of the study helps communicate to everyone in Arizona what's happening in agriculture.
"Agriculture over the years has a tendency to just go about its business, to do what we do and do it well. And we look up, and everybody's eating well, but they don't really know where it comes from and why, and the importance of it," said Steve Alameda, president of the Yuma Fresh Vegetable Association and a vegetable grower in Yuma.
"We need to let people know about our importance. We're in the fields and in the rural areas, and people don't get a chance to see us all the time. These studies are a way to get these numbers out there, let people know we're here," Alameda said.