- The Washington Times - Sunday, September 28, 2008

RICHMOND | A University of Virginia study of farming and forestry found the two had a total economic impact of $79 billion in 2006 and supported more than a half-million jobs in the commonwealth.

Those dollars are generated by 21 million Virginia acres devoted to forest, cropland and pasture, according to the report by Terance J. Rephann of UVa.’s Weldon Cooper Center for Public Service.

“The agriculture and forestry sector is an economic engine that drives much of the economic activity in other Virginia industries,” Gov. Tim Kaine, a Democrat, said at the release of the findings last week at a farm in Henrico County.

The $79 billion and 501,000 jobs linked to farming and forestry include purchasing, sales and related economic activities. Of that sum, $37 billion is the “value added” of a farm or forest product as it makes its way to the consumer — from field to processing plant to grocery shelf.

The study identified agriculture’s share of the $79 billion as $55 billion, up from a 1998 estimate of $36 billion.

“That shows significant growth for our industry, and we will do everything we can to help Virginia farmers and producers move more of their products into the global marketplace so that this upward trend continues,” said Todd P. Haymore, commissioner of the Virginia Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services.

For every job created in forestry or farming, the study found, another 1.5 jobs are created in the Virginia economy.

The $79 billion figure does not include agri-tourism and horse events, which have the potential to add several billion dollars, the study said. It also does not include recreational hunting and fishing or commercial fishing, a growing segment of the Virginia economy.

The report reveals the economic importance of farm and forest to Virginia’s economic base, Mr. Rephann said.

“The public often equates the economic contribution of these sectors with what is visible, such as farm and logging activities,” Mr. Rephann said in e-mail. “But that ignores the fact that many state industries upstream depend on the local availability of farm and forest commodities.”

The report found a shifting agricultural scene, with shrinking output of peanuts, tobacco and dairy offset by gains in poultry, equine, aquaculture, greenhouse and nursery products.

Among the study’s other findings:

• Virginia is No. 3 in tomato production in the U.S., No. 5 in tobacco and No. 6 in apples. Turkey, peanuts and grapes are among the other top commodities.

• Poultry and eggs account for 32 percent of cash receipts in the state, followed by meat animals (19 percent), field crops (15 percent) and milk (10 percent).

• Virginia produced 503 million cubic feet of timber products, primarily logs for sawing and pulpwood. Mills produced 1.6 billion board feet of lumber.

• Sixty-four percent of the state’s forestland is composed of oak and hickory.

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