Markell, Harker stress importance of agriculture to Delaware's economy
Delaware Gov. Jack Markell, left, receives a copy of the agriculture report from UD President Patrick Harker.
Pictured are, from left, Titus Awokuse, UD associate professor; Secretary of Agriculture Ed Kee; Gov. Jack Markell; UD President Patrick Harker; Robin Morgan, dean of the College of Agriculture and Natural Resources; and Tom Ilvento, UD professor and chair of the Department of Food and Resource Economics.

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4:17 p.m., March 23, 2011----University of Delaware President Patrick Harker presented the results of a recent UD study noting the impact of agriculture to Delaware's economy to Delaware Gov. Jack Markell on Wednesday, March 23.

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The study, conducted by UD faculty members Tom Ilvento and Titus Awokuse of the Department of Food and Resource Economics, found Delaware agriculture to have roughly an $8 billion impact on the state's economy, up from the previously used figure of $1 billion.

“Agriculture is important to our economy and important to our future,” said Markell. “Farming and related agri-business generate tens of thousands of jobs and my job is to help keep our agriculture industry strong and growing. We are doing all we can to support the poultry producing industry in Delaware and helping to create conditions that will increase sales and exports, including exports to other countries.”

Markell called the report a great resource and said that having this research data at their disposal will help “policy makers throughout Delaware understand that this is something critically important to our state's past, present and future.”

Meeting with Markell and Harker, were Delaware Secretary of Agriculture Ed Kee and Robin Morgan, dean of the College of Agriculture and Natural Resources (CANR).

Harker said the study “captures the vibrancy of the state's agricultural sector, its economic power, and its central place in our daily lives.” Stressing that though the economic component is no doubt a very important aspect of agriculture, Harker said that people should also focus on agriculture's “amazing potential for better human health, food safety and security, clean air, clean water, clean energy, and healthy ecosystems.”

Harker noted that CANR is focused on these things every day. He said, “Agriculture is a critical piece of Delaware's future and America's future, and I'm thrilled that this report illustrates just how dynamic and vital it is.”

Morgan said that before the study was conducted, the industry was credited with only $1.1 billion in contributions to Delaware's economy, a number Morgan explained as the total market value of agricultural products sold from farms in Delaware.

Upon further examination of the components of Delaware's gross domestic product (GDP), Morgan noted that manufacturing accounted for roughly 7.7 percent of Delaware's GDP while agriculture accounted for less than 1 percent.

“We wondered what Delaware was manufacturing, and when we examined the data, we discovered that a large portion of Delaware manufacturing was chickens and the feed that they eat,” Morgan said.

All of the things that go into the processing of chickens and feed were not being included in Delaware's farm gate statistics, and after seeing this, Morgan asked Ilvento and Awokuse to complete a comprehensive review and break out the statistics by commodity, by county, by production and by processing.

Poultry, while certainly the mainstay of Delaware's agricultural economy, was just a piece of the pie. The end result was a significant change in the contributions of agriculture to Delaware's economy -- from $1 billion to $7.95 billion.

Kee noted that the study is important not only because it provides new data and information, but also because “behind every statistic, behind every piece of data, is a person.” He thanked those involved in the study for “capturing that human story by capturing the value of the industry.”

Key findings of the report:

In 2008, the total economic contribution of all categories of agriculture in Delaware was $7.95 billion in industry output.

The agricultural industry contributes $2.5 billion in value added activity and $1.6 billion in labor income.

The total estimated number of jobs supported by the agricultural industry in Delaware was about 30,000 in 2008.

The poultry industry alone produces an industry output of $3.2 billion, 13,437 jobs, and $911.6 million in value added. In comparison, fruit and vegetable production and processing account for $179 million, 754 jobs, and $67.5 million in value added activities.

Sussex County generates an industry output of $3.78 billion and a total of 15, 378 jobs; Kent accounts for $2.64 billion and 8, 502 jobs, with New Castle contributing $1.2 billion and 4,448 jobs.

For a copy of the report, click here.

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