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Triple Digits: North Carolina Agricultural Impact Tops $100 Billion

Profiles of three people standing in a field during sunset

North Carolina agriculture and agribusiness reached a milestone of $103.2 billion in economic impact, according to a new report. 

It’s the first time the figure has reached triple digits since economist Mike Walden, professor emeritus at North Carolina State University, began releasing an annual economic snapshot in the 1980s. Last year’s report showed an economic impact of $92.9 billion.

Walden’s new total reflects value-added income from the state’s food, natural fiber and forestry industries, which employ almost one in five North Carolina workers – some 736,679 of the state’s 4.6 million employees. He used the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s latest statistics, which are from 2021.

He calculated that food, fiber and forestry account for almost 16% of North Carolina’s $662 billion gross state product. 

Walden says the latest numbers, first announced during the recent Got to Be NC Festival, reflect two results. 

“First, North Carolina’s agriculture and agribusiness sector has quickly rebounded from the challenges presented during the pandemic,” he says. “Second, North Carolina’s agriculture and agribusiness sector continues to be a key driving force of the state’s economy, and the sector will help North Carolina prosper and grow in the future.”

Walden says that value-added income in the report includes sales at the farm level. For manufacturing, wholesale and retail calculations, the value-added total doesn’t include the value of inputs produced outside North Carolina. The process avoids multiple counts of a product used several times in the production chain. 

Walden’s report is titled Agriculture and Agribusiness, North Carolina’s Number One Industry. He is a William Neal Reynolds Distinguished Professor Emeritus at NC State in the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences.