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"J. Paul Till, Director, Information Department"
334 613-4313

MONTGOMERY If you eat, you'll want to celebrate Friday, March 20. That's the date of National Agriculture Day.

"With the world population at 5.5 billion today and expected to reach 7.9 billion by the year 2020, the future looks bright for American agriculture whether it's producing food or fiber," said Goodwin Myrick, president of the Alabama Farmers Federation, the state's largest farm organization. "American agriculture is stepping up to the plate to provide even more food and fiber. Each farmer is the picture of efficiency, producing enough food to feed 129 people every day," Myrick said.

When it comes to Alabama, Myrick said agriculture is big business. So big, in fact, that it is the state's No. 1 industry.

In fact, a new analysis shows agriculture and related industries continue to account for almost one-fourth of Alabama's total economy.

The study, conducted by Auburn University ag economists Dr. Bob Taylor and Arlen Smith, looks at the impact of agriculture and agribusiness--from the field and farm gate to the textile mill and food store--on Alabama's economy. "There's a perception among the public and, to an extent, among farmers, that agriculture is a declining industry," said Taylor. "But these data clearly show that is not the case."

In 1997, agriculture and related industries accounted for $40.8 billion of Alabama's total economic gross output of $175.2 billion.

On the job front, agriculture and related industries provided 482,000 of the 2.2 million jobs in Alabama. Actual production agriculture, when singled out from the related industries, had a gross output of $6.3 billion and employed 76,075.

"Most people know Alabama and the nation was founded on agriculture," said Myrick. "But now, fewer people live or work on farms. Far more live in cities and suburbs and many don't realize that agriculture still drives the economy of our state."

And Myrick knows that Alabama agriculture isn't just important at home. Nationwide, Alabama ranks second in catfish production and commercial forest land, third in broiler production and peanut production, fifth in sweet potato production, ninth in cotton acreage and 14th in beef production.

"We all have a stake in Alabama agriculture even if we never set foot on a farm," Myrick said. "Our connection is there every time we buy a loaf or bread or pour cold milk on our cereal in the morning."

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