Published on 01/19/12

Agriculture gives Georgia's economy a leg up

By Steve L. Brown

In a year when Georgia’s economy struggled to get back on its feet, agriculture gave local communities a much-needed boost, according to a report released by the University of Georgia Center for Agribusiness and Economic Development.

The 2010 Georgia Farm Gate Value Report showed Georgia agriculture’s farm gate value hit a record high $12,002,461,213 in 2010. This huge number multiplies several fold when you factor in the Georgia industries that process, package, ship and market Georgia’s agricultural output, offering an economic ladder that helped many small businesses and local communities climb out of a deep economic hole.

What impact does $12 billion have on Georgia’s economy?

Not all of that money goes into the pockets of farmers. It goes to local seed companies, chemical companies, local farm workers, tractor companies, banks, fuel companies, fertilizer companies, veterinarians and more. What does go into the farmers’ pockets then goes out into the community to pay for home mortgages, cars and equipment, education, power bills, medical care, and other community-based businesses.

We’ve all come to know that an economy can’t be solely based on services. Somebody has to actually produce something that has value. That’s exactly what Georgia agriculture does. It produces more than $12 billion worth of value and pumps it into our economy. Not only do farmers benefit, all Georgians do.

As our legislative session gets underway, it’s important to assess the public value of our industries, keeping in mind that agricultural output is dependent upon reliable, science-based information to sustain this growth. Twelve billion dollars worth of value doesn’t just happen.

Research and education from state-supported institutions, like University of Georgia and Fort Valley State University, help keep Georgia’s largest industry not only economically viable, but growing in a very competitive world market. The competitive advantage that comes with sound research and education helps Georgia farmers produce safer, more nutritious products while protecting the environment to continually improve the quality of life in Georgia.

Here are a few interesting facts found in the 2010 Farm Gate Value Report that shows how local communities across Georgia benefit from agriculture:

• Georgia produces 20 different commodities with farm gate values over $100 million and 48 commodities with a value over $10 million. That’s not only a sign of high value, but high diversity as well.

• Colquitt County had the highest farm gate value in 2010 at $475,048,630 followed by Franklin, Habersham, Madison, Banks, Mitchell, Hart, Jackson, Tattnall and Hall to make up the Top 10 agriculture producing counties.

• The top livestock county was Oglethorpe.

• Laurens County topped the forestry category, while Grady County led in ornamental horticulture value.

• Bacon County was the highest in the fruit and nut category.

• Dooly County led the row and forage crop category and Colquitt County was tops in vegetables.

Check out the online report to find out what Georgia agriculture means to your local area at

Steve Brown is the assistant dean for University of Georgia Cooperative Extension with the College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences.

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