North Carolina recently finished another successful State Fair in North Carolina. What does agriculture, which the fair celebrates, mean to North Carolina? N.C. State University economist Mike Walden responds.
“When we look at what I call the broader definition of agriculture, which I call agribusiness — and what we include there is not only farming but also the processing of farm products, the wholesaling and retailing of those products — it is a big, big industry in the state.
“I calculate this number every year. In fact, you can see it presented at the State Fair. The latest year that we have data for shows it is a $70 billion … industry in North Carolina when you look at all those facets of getting food and natural fiber and forestry products from the growing stage out to the final user in this state.
“Now that $70 billion accounts for 18 percent of the state economy. The composition of that has changed dramatically over the last few decades — for example, in the farming area, we’re doing more meat farming, if you will, raising more livestock.
“We’re doing relatively less crop farming. Also the processing sector of agribusiness has grown tremendously primarily in the meat-processing area.
“But agribusiness, as I define it is still a big, big part of the North Carolina economy, and I think that’s why we celebrate it each year with the very impressive North Carolina State Fair.”