The U.S. agricultural economy had recovered more quickly from its worst recession since the 1930s than many other sectors, according to a report released Monday by the federal government.
The total value added to the U.S. economy from the farm sector rose about 35 percent between the second quarter of 2009 and the fourth quarter of 2011, said the report prepared by the Council of Economic Advisers, the White House Rural Council and the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA).
Strength in agricultural production also supported other parts of the economy. Farm machinery shipments reached nearly 3 billion dollars in 2011 while manufactured food product shipments exceeded 710 billion dollars, both of which were record high.
The report cited innovation, increasing agricultural exports, strengthened clean energy demand, organic industry booming and supportive policies as factors driving the growth.
Studies found that every dollar invested in public agricultural research generated ten to twenty times that amount in benefits to society. For instance, in 1950 the average dairy cow produced about 5,300 pounds of milk and now the average cow produced about 22,000 pounds of milk due to improvements in cow genetics, feed formula, and management practices. In order to keep the momentum, the federal government requested 2.3 billion dollars in 2013 budget for agricultural research and development.
During fiscal year 2011 ending September 30, 2011, American agricultural exports reached an all-time high of 137.4 billion dollars, or roughly 11 percent of total exports. Also, the country ran a record level of trade surplus in agricultural goods, over 42 billion dollars. The agricultural exports supported more than 1.15 million U.S. jobs, added the report.
Clean energy development also provided opportunities for farmers. The U.S. produced 864 million gallons of bio-diesel in 2011 and about 40 percent of corn used for producing ethanol.
In addition, the organic industry saw 31.4 billion dollars in their retail sales, up from 21.1 billion dollars in 2008.
The report attributed the growth of the agricultural economy to favorable polices. Over the last three years, 12,000 USDA grants and loans had been issued to assist over 50,000 rural small businesses. So far this fiscal year, the Obama Administration had invested 437.3 million dollars in rural businesses and was expected to invest additional 2 billion dollars by the end of fiscal year 2016.