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Report: Ag has major impact on Idaho economy

By Sean Ellis

Idaho Farm Bureau Federation

POCATELLO – A new University of Idaho study shows that agriculture’s contribution to Idaho’s economy is huge, and growing. 

The report, “Economic Contribution of Idaho Agribusiness,” will be released first to lawmakers when the Idaho Legislature convenes in January.  

It will show that in 2019, Idaho’s agriculture industry directly and indirectly contributed $29.3 billion in sales to the state’s economy, which represented 17 percent of Idaho’s total economic output. 

The data from the report will also show that agriculture was responsible for 129,500 jobs, which amounted to 1 in every 8 jobs in the state.

Agriculture was responsible for $10.5 billion in value added in 2019, which was 12.5 percent of Idaho’s total gross state product that year. 

The report is based on several sources, including data from USDA and the U.S. Bureau of Economy Analysis.

A separate report has found that Idaho ranks fifth in the nation when it comes to gross state product from agriculture as a percentage of a state’s total GSP. 

“This means that there are few places in the country where agriculture plays a more central role in driving the state’s economy than in Idaho,” said the report’s author, Philip Watson, an associate professor in University of Idaho’s College of Agricultural and Life Sciences. 

In the report, agriculture’s total impact on the state’s economy includes its impacts on other sectors. For example, it includes the sale of a tire tractor, fertilizer or other farm-related service to a farmer or rancher. 

The report is based on 2019 data and updates a previous report by Watson based on 2017 data. 

Idaho agriculture’s total contributions to the state’s economy grew from 2017 to 2019. 

The report based on 2017 data showed Idaho’s agriculture industry contributed $26.4 billion in sales, which was 18 percent of Idaho’s total economic output in 2017, and $9.6 billion in value added, which was 13 percent of total Idaho GSP. 

While those totals in the recent report were higher, their percentage of Idaho’s overall economy actually declined slightly, to 17 percent and 12.5 percent. 

The value of agriculture in Idaho is greater than it has ever been, even as the overall economy in Idaho grows at one of the fastest paces in the nation, Watson said. 

So, while agriculture in Idaho grows, it is a bit smaller as a proportion of the overall state economy. 

“This is not a bad thing, it just says that the overall Idaho economy has been strong, which is good for agriculture and for the state as a whole,” Watson said. “It’s not that Idaho ag doesn’t have strong growth, it’s just that the overall growth of the Idaho economy has been exceptional.”

The report found that Idaho’s agriculture industry was responsible for $4.6 billion in wages in 2019, which was $1 of every $10 of wages paid in the state that year.

It also compared how big a share of the state’s overall economy agribusiness in Idaho accounted for compared with neighboring states and the U.S. as a whole. Agribusiness includes all crop farming and livestock production, as well as the processing of agricultural products.

The report shows that agribusiness in Idaho contributes 4.5 times more to the state’s total GSP than it does in Utah, 4.3 times more than in Washington, 4 times more than in Wyoming, 2.8 times more than in Oregon, 2 times more than in Montana, 12 times more than in Nevada and 3.7 times more than in the United States as a whole. 

The Economic Contribution of Idaho Agribusiness study shows Idaho in 2019 ranked among the top nine states in production of 28 agricultural commodities.

The study also shows Idaho’s top 10 counties in terms of total farm cash receipts from crop and livestock production in 2019 were: Cassia ($1.06 billion), Gooding ($922 million), Twin Falls ($749 million), Jerome ($733 million), Canyon ($644 million), Bingham ($496 million), Elmore ($487 million), Minidoka ($388 million), Jefferson ($328 million) and Owyhee ($311 million).

When it came to farm cash receipts from livestock production, Gooding was the top county in the state with $851 million, while Bingham County was the top county for cash receipts from crop production, with $382 million.