A new report commissioned by 12 Midwestern universities confirms what many already believe – that agriculture and agricultural research play key roles in economic growth and job creation.
Research firm Battelle conducted the study, which describes the importance of Agriculture and agricultural biosciences, which the researchers call agbioscience, to the present and future economic health of the United States. The report is titled “Power and Promise: Agbioscience in the North Central United States.”
The research finds that not only does agbioscience provide wide-ranging opportunities for economic growth and job creation, but also that the work of agricultural research and Extension professionals at Land Grant universities is developing advancements that address national and global needs, including agricultural productivity, food security, human health, renewable resource development and environmental sustainability.
“In the ‘BioCentury’ that is the 21st Century,” the authors note, “Land-Grant universities, and their experiment stations and Extension services, are on the frontline of sustaining and securing America’s leadership and competitiveness in what is, and will be, the key macroeconomic sector of our time. As this report shows, sustaining these institutions, further investing in them, and addressing their challenges is of central importance to a sustainable economic future for the United States.”
The report notes these points illustrating the importance of agriculture in the United States and particularly in the North Central region:
•Comprising just 6.1 percent of global land area, the United States in 2009-10 produced 18.7percent of the world’s grains, 22.4 percent of global oilseeds and is the worldwide leader in beef and poultry production, with 20.8 percent and 23.2 percent of global production respectively
•The North Central region – comprising the twelve states of North Dakota, South Dakota, Nebraska, Kansas, Minnesota, Iowa, Missouri, Wisconsin, Illinois, Indiana, Michigan and Ohio – leads the way for U.S. agricultural production. With 21 percent of U.S. land, the North Central region produces 45 percent of U.S. agricultural exports, and over 80 percent of key exports such as soybeans and feed grains, and more than 60 percent of meat and livestock exports.
•In addition to the more than 800,000 farms in the region, the report finds that North Central states contained more than 88,000 companies participating in the agribusiness value-added chain through the manufacturing of products and the provision of services. Taken together these farms and industries employ almost 2.4 million people with an economic output of $125 billion and pay, on average, $2,600 more per job than the average pay level for other private sector workers in the region.
The authors warn however, that an awareness gap threatens support for agricultural research. “The public, media and political leaders inherently understand the importance of biomedical research to discovering new cures and treatments for disease and the impact this has on human lives,” they note, “but may have less knowledge of the more complex relationship between the economy, environment and human health encompassed by agbioscience.”
Continued funding for research and Extension at Land Grant universities is critical for the future, says Simon Tripp, lead author of the study . “These institutions should be considered priorities for further strategic investment and development given their importance in realizing the intrinsic growth potential of agbiosciences for the U.S. and regional economies.”
The report concludes by noting that agbiosciences represent an opportunity for the United States to expand on U.S. leadership in a bio-based, sustainable resource-driven economy with wide ranging innovation and technology-based development opportunities. The full report is available online.