Monday, July 15, 2024
HomeJesse's CommentaryOP-ED: Good Jobs in The Booming Agriculture Sector

OP-ED: Good Jobs in The Booming Agriculture Sector

By John Bode, President & CEO of the Corn Refiners Association

College students considering career paths should consider a new report on the contributions of agriculture related business to the U.S. economy. It tells a compelling and, sometimes, surprising story. 

The Feeding the Economy report provides impact at the national, state and congressional district levels. The report tells a story that might be different than what you expect—a story of agriculture supporting a healthy and growing manufacturing sector.  Let’s look at some highlights.

First, agriculture related business is a large, resilient and breathtakingly diverse sector. It supports 20% of the U.S. economy and reaches far beyond the farmgate into the most urban areas. By agriculture related industry, we are talking about farm, forestry, and fishery production, and the extensive chain of businesses that buy, process and sell those products all the way through retail, typically a grocery store or restaurant. It does not include the numerous businesses that support that sector, such as businesses that manufacture or provide farm equipment, refrigeration, food packaging, restaurant supplies, etc. Those businesses are supported by the agribusiness economy.

Second, agriculture related business probably is not what you expect. The vast majority of jobs are in wholesale and retail. There are about as many Americans working in manufacturing agricultural products as farming. In fact, agriculture manufacturing accounts for almost 20% of all American manufacturing jobs, well over twice as many as automobile manufacturing. Many of these jobs are highly skilled and very well paid, making widely diverse products.  For example, corn refining is an industry of chemical engineering operating large scale biofermentation units that make inputs for foods, pharmaceuticals, medical devices, industrials (such as the adhesives used in the building materials all around you) and, increasingly, carbon reducing renewable chemicals and even plastics.  

Third, this year’s report provides a stunning contrast to 2019, the year before the global pandemic. Total jobs grew by almost 20%. Compared with 2019, there are now almost 18,000 more jobs in agriculture production, 154,000 jobs in food and agriculture manufacturing, and 619,000 jobs in wholesale and distribution. Total food and ag economic impact grew by over 36%, leading to a 36% increase in total taxes paid. Further, the growth is broad: every state and the District of Columbia experienced significant growth.

The report is a reminder that agriculture is the foundation of a modern economy.  Even though we have moved beyond the years where a major portion of the U.S. population is directly involved in agricultural production, many of us are still involved in the broader food and agriculture sector.  And the success of one part of the food and ag industry is highly dependent on the success of other parts of the process, including international trade of food and agricultural products.  For example, farmers need markets for their production. All those manufacturing jobs are dependent on the efficiency and sustainability of American farmers. The jobs in food wholesale and retail would not be so abundant if America’s food supply were not so affordable. 

With farmland acreage declining, climate change stress on agricultural production, expanding dietary health problems, and surging global population, problem solvers will find the coming decades in agriculture related industry to be fulfilling. Agriculture related industry is large, diverse, and resilient. Check it out.  

John Bode is President & CEO of the Corn Refiners Association, the trade association representing the corn milling industry. John is an appointed member of the Agricultural Policy Advisory Committee, joining a select group of senior ag community representatives to provide advice to the Administration on matters of trade policy. John has been involved in every significant change in federal food law since the 1981 Farm Bill. In private practice, he counseled leading food and agriculture trade associations and companies regarding legislative and regulatory policy advocacy, regulatory compliance and congressional investigations. 

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