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Agbiosciences drive economic growth, job creation in the Southern U.S.

Amid news of a still sputtering U.S. economic recovery, a report released today shows the nation’s agbioscience industries are growing, especially in the South.

According to a Battelle study released today, “Impact and Innovation: Agbioscience in the Southern United States,” agriculture, forestry and fisheries production generates $240 billion in regional economic activity within the Southern region and supports over 2.2 million jobs with labor income totaling $62 billion.

Agbioscience encompasses a broad continuum of development, production and value-added use of plants and animals for food, health, fuel and industrial applications. The study’s findings show that agbioscience, its value-chain in production and the downstream industrial activity are vital to the country’s sustainable global and domestic economic future, with the Southern region helping drive that activity.

In addition, the downstream processing of agriculture, forestry and fisheries output into value-added food and industrial products adds an additional $1 trillion in output across the Southern region’s economy and almost 4.6 million jobs with labor income totaling over $200 billion.

“The current and future importance of the agbiosciences is hard to overstate,” said Simon Tripp, a co-author of the report. “For instance, this science and industry sector is fundamental to the survival of the world’s expanding population, the food security of our nation and the health of our population.”

While the Battelle study does not break down agriculture, forestry and fisheries economic activity by state, Dr. Mike Walden, an N.C. Cooperative Extension Service economist and William Neal Reynolds Professor at North Carolina State University, has determined that North Carolina agriculture and agribusiness (including the state’s food, fiber and forestry industries) account for $71.6 billion of the state’s $425 billion gross state product and 638,000 of North Carolina’s 3.8 million jobs.

The industry’s tremendous economic impact across the region is due in large part to the modern science and technology innovations from the Land-grant University Cooperative Extension Service and Agricultural
Experiment Station System. The system successfully addresses agriculture’s crucial national and global needs through research and development, practice improvement, skills enhancement and new technology introduction, dissemination and adoption, the report shows.

This integrated research-and-extension partnership has a powerful impact on North Carolina’s agricultural and life sciences industries, said Dr. Richard Linton, dean of the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences at North Carolina State University.

For example, research and extension programs related to more efficient ways to grow corn have helped increase North Carolina corn growers’ income from $92 million in 1998 to more than $575 million in 2010. By reducing soybean planting rates, farmers realized increased income of more than $60 million in 2012. And the farmgate value of the N.C. State University-developed sweet potato variety Covington, which accounts for 85 percent of the state’s sweet potato acreage, amounts to more than $185 million annually.

In North Carolina, scientists with the N.C. Agricultural Research Service, which is part of N.C. State University’s College of Agriculture and Life Sciences , are involved in research ranging from basic discovery related to the biology of plants, animals and people to the development of practical ways to improve agricultural production, human health and resource conservation.

Working hand-in-hand with these scientists are North Carolina Cooperative Extension Service specialists and agents stationed throughout the state. Extension’s mission is to deliver education and technology that enrich the lives, land and economy of North Carolina.

College of Agriculture and Life Sciences research has directly led to the creation of new companies involved in food processing, animal nutrition, heart disease screening, vaccine development and more.

“As this report points out, the agricultural and life sciences industries are important economic engines across the Southern region and the most important economic sector in the state of North Carolina,” said Linton. “We are extraordinarily fortunate in North Carolina to have a robust agricultural research and extension system that supports these industries.”

Linton added, “Our integrated research and extension programs are addressing the major challenges we face today and in the future: energy and bioenergy, food safety and food security, climate change, water quality and water quantity, foods and human health, sustainability and local foods, agricultural biotechnology and
environmental issues.”

The “Impact and Innovation” report notes the Land-grant University Extension Service and Experiment Station System is on the frontline of sustaining and securing U.S. competitiveness in what is, and will continue to be, a sector of core strategic importance for the country.

This U.S. system of research and extension provides science and technology development and transformational education that keep Southern region agriculture, agribusiness, and associated business sectors at the forefront of innovation, productivity and competitiveness. These advancements create and sustain jobs and contribute to a strong regional, national and global economy.

Courtesy CALS is dedicated to serving the agricultural industry in the Carolinas and Virginia with the latest ag news, exclusive regional weather station readings, and key crop market information. The website is a companion of the Southern Farm Network, provider of daily agricultural radio programming to the Carolinas since 1974. presents radio programs, interviews and news relevant to crop and livestock production and research throughout the mid-Atlantic agricultural community.