Despite numbers dip, farmers remain central to Texas’ economic outlook
Farmer numbers are dropping dramatically even as the U.S. population continues its upward trajectory. In 1900, U.S. government figures put the country’s population at about 76 million; the number of farms – 5.74 million. Now, even with a population above 315 million, the number of farms has dipped to 2.1 million.
Still, agriculture forms the lifeblood of many rural communities, said Darren Hudson, director of Texas Tech’s Cotton International Center for Agricultural Competitiveness. The agricultural economy links farmers, input suppliers, feed and seed dealers, processors, and related entrepreneurs, “like a web,” to the larger economy through employment and the purchases they and their employees make, he said.
“On the Texas High Plains, for example, agriculture accounts for roughly one-third of the economic output and employment,” Hudson said. The Texas High Plains, which is widely known for its cotton, is also a significant contributor of corn and milo, peanuts, cattle and dairy products.
Among the members of the Lubbock Chamber of Commerce are many agriculture-related companies, including agribusiness firms, food manufacturers, equipment and chemical suppliers and consulting services catering to farming concerns. “Even in an urban center like Lubbock, a good portion of the output and employment is indirectly linked to agriculture through the shopping, eating, healthcare, etc., of those working directly in agriculture,” Hudson said.
In rural areas around the state, by contrast, more than 90 percent of economic activity is tied to agriculture. “Even things like land values that form taxes for schools and roads are directly tied to agriculture,” he said. In the most recent economic crisis, Texas’s rural areas have fared relatively better than the rest of the country. The Farm Bill, and later high commodity prices “helped provide economic stability,” Hudson said. “A city like Lubbock was able to maintain an unemployment rate far below state and national averages during the time.”
Reporting by Cristina Pastor
CONTACT: Darren Hudson, Director, International Center for Agricultural Competitiveness, Texas Tech University, (806) 834-0546 or firstname.lastname@example.org
Editor’s Note: For full text of the story, go to http://agfax.com/2013/07/02/looking-at-the-facts-rural-america-in-a-growing-urban-world/