US food and agriculture valued at $7.4 trillion in new report. Here's how much Utah contributed

Chad’s Produce sells fruit at the Wheeler Historic Farm farmers market in Murray on July 25, 2021. The food and agriculture industries had an economic impact of over $70 billion in 2021, according to a report released Tuesday. (Jeffrey D. Allred, Deseret News)

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SALT LAKE CITY — The entire U.S. food and agriculture industry’s economic impact climbed back to $7.43 trillion, and it helped support over 43.4 million jobs in 2021, showing that the industries are slowly rebounding from the COVID-19 pandemic, according to an annual report on the industry released Tuesday.

The industries accounted for an economic impact of $71.3 billion in Utah alone last year, according to the 2022 Feeding the Economy report. The annual report is a collaboration of 30 food and agriculture groups that use all sorts of data to form a “farm-to-fork” economic analysis of all things food-related.

The report’s numbers are the result of dozens of agriculture, manufacturing, wholesale and retail datasets. For instance, it factors in the manufacturing of the equipment that helped a farmer grow fruit, which got canned and then sold at a store or restaurant.

The chain of those industries resulted in over 21.4 million direct, 11.2 million indirect, and 10.7 million induced jobs — jobs supported by spending on goods and services by employees — nationwide last year. The industries are linked to nearly one-third of all American jobs and about 7% of the entire U.S. economy, according to the report.

The wide-ranging industries also accounted for 438,644 direct, indirect or induced jobs in Utah with $19.9 billion in wages, according to the report. It adds that agriculture, manufacturing, wholesale and retail industries within the state produced $27.9 billion in direct output and $1.48 billion in exports. All of the numbers combined equate to $5.8 billion in state and federal tax revenue.

“The food and agriculture industries’ vital role in feeding Americans is well-known, but less talked about is their incredible impact in growing the nation’s economy. The Feeding the Economy report allows us to quantify our industry’s role in supporting the U.S. economy and better understand how we can continue to promote those contributions,” said Craig Buttars, the commissioner of the Utah Department of Agriculture and Food, in a statement.

This is the sixth straight year that the groups have released their economic report; the 2022 report underscores the rebound in the industries that were disrupted by the COVID-19 pandemic.

The industries climbed to $7.63 trillion in total economic impact in 2019, according to the 2020 Feeding the Economy report. It supported almost 46.86 million jobs with $2.27 trillion. Last year’s report, which focused on 2020 numbers, found the entire industry’s economic value dropped by over a half-trillion dollars, providing an economic impact of nearly $6.98 trillion.

Food and agriculture industry jobs and wages also tumbled. They supported 40.7 million jobs that provided $2.04 trillion in wages nationwide in 2020.

The value of exports helped soften the pandemic’s blow on the food and agriculture industries. While it cost millions of jobs and wages, the value of exports still rose from 2019 to 2020, climbing from $148.4 billion to $155.58 billion. That figure is still going up; the industries produced $182.91 billion in exports last year, according to the report released Tuesday.

“The new Feeding the Economy report highlights how food and agriculture overcame pandemic disruptions to continue to serve as a bedrock of the U.S. economy,” said John Bode, president and CEO of the Corn Refiners Association, in a statement. The association is one of the organizers that sponsors the annual report.

That doesn’t mean the industries are out of the woods just yet; they are still dealing with issues related to global supply chain shortages and rising inflation, according to the organizers behind the report.

Most of the West also remains impacted by severe drought conditions that linger ahead of the growing season, which may impact the agriculture portion of the annual report. Combined, the nine states that make up the region, according to the U.S. Drought Monitor, accounted for over $1.5 trillion of the entire $7.43 trillion industry last year.

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