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Agribusiness and economic development

Although North Carolina’s economy is expanding, economic growth is not occurring at the same rate in all parts of the state. Indeed, in many of our rural and small town regions, economic development is a big challenge. Can agribusiness help? NC State University economist Mike Walden answers.

“Well, first of all, what is agribusiness? Agribusiness certainly includes farming, the raising of crops and livestock, but then it goes further. It actually looks at the entire what we call supply chain of growing, processing and delivering in North Carolina food, natural fiber and forestry projects. And I actually estimate these numbers annually, and right now that is a $76 billion industry in North Carolina. And to put that in context, North Carolina’s total economy is about $440 billion of economic activity. So that 76 is obviously a big chunk of it.

“And in terms of economic development many futurists believe that agribusiness can serve as a springboard for economic development for many North Carolina regions in the future — one reason being that we are very good at producing meat. And meat is a product that as countries like those in Asia expand, they eat and use more of. So many futurists see the development and expansion of agribusiness, particularly in meat, as an area where we can see growth, particularly in rural areas. Futurists also see benefits and growth in terms of nutritional and medical developments, all from agribusiness-related pursuits.

“And much of this development again will occur directly in those areas of North Carolina — in those small towns and rural areas — that are struggling, that have been struggling, relative to the metro areas.

“And, of course, North Carolina State University is a partner in all this economic development, both in the research and application of agribusiness findings here at the university.”