Why Is Agriculture A Big Deal In Arkansas: Statistics Of Agricultural Employment?

Arkansas agricultural sector is a very important part of the growing economy of the state. The agricultural sector in Arkansas is a broad term encompassing the production and processing of agricultural products like crops, forestry, livestock, and fishery. Directly or indirectly, the agricultural sector accounts for about one-fourth of all jobs and value in the state’s economy.

In July 2016, The Bureau of Economic Analysis (BEA) reported that Arkansas recorded the highest GDP expansion in the history of the nation in the first quarter of that year. One thing that the BEA news release made bare was the strong economy of Arkansas. The result of the growth was linked to the vibrant agricultural sector including Fishing, forestry, and hunting. Out of the 3.9 percent growth, the agricultural sector contributed 2.21 percent. This means that if the agricultural sector was excluded the growth of the state’s economy would have been 1.69 percent.

In 2012 the USDA’s National Agricultural Statistics Service (NASS) made a number of projections for which showed a significant rise in projected agricultural output in 2012 compared to the previous year (2011). For example, NASS projected a 51.7 percent increase in corn output while that of rice was expected to reach 18 percent increase. Rice and corn are among the most important crops in the state owing to the huge revenue the state gets from their production. The only crop that was projected to have a negative growth was cotton (-6 percent).  The increase in corn and rice production is attributed to increased yield per acre and the number of harvested acres.

It can be recalled that different parts of the nation experienced drought or was hit by the Hurricane Isaac in 2012. However, the positive forecast downplays feared impact those natural forces would have had on the state’s agricultural output.

A Brief Recap Of Arkansas Agricultural Components

The economy of Arkansas has had a steady growth since 1982. Between the early and mid-1980s, the level of agricultural production and processing remained almost even until 1987 when the growth in these areas became significant. The state’s gross agricultural production and processing also witnessed a growth from $3.5 billion from 1982 to $8.6 billion in 1996.

Crop production is a vital component of Arkansas agricultural sector accounting for as much as 45 percent of the state’s agricultural sector employment and 52 percent of value added in 1995 by all the farm production.

In 1996, the sale of crops reached a record $2.7 billion. Since 1986, there has been a steady increase in the dollar value of sales. This has been linked to a number of factors including technological advancements, improvement in yields, and improved management practices.

soybean farm
Crop production is a vital component of Arkansas agricultural sector

The gross sales of livestock also improved by 59 percent from 1987 to 1996. Poultry and egg production accounts for most of the sales growth recorded in livestock. In ranking, Arkansas is second in the nation in terms of poultry production. In fact, in 1996, 15 percent of the broilers produced in the United States came from Arkansas.

The contribution of aquaculture to the agricultural scene has also witnessed a significant improvement over the years. Commercial fish farming in 1995 added about 1 percent of the valued added by agricultural production. Between 1991 and 1994, there has also been an increase in the sale of aquaculture from $51 million to $103 million. Catfish was one of the most produced and traded fish in aquaculture.  From 1991 to 1996, the sale of catfish spiked from $19 million to $44 million.

The contribution of forestry in the agricultural scene of Arkansas is small but significant. In 1996, forestry accounted for about 2 percent of value added and 1 percent of employment. It is important to note that the manufacturing industry is next in line to the agricultural sector. Most of these industries like the wood products manufacturing industry rely on Arkansas’s forestry.

Arkansas Agricultural Employment Of The Recent Past

The statistics available for the employment rate of Arkansas agricultural sector up to 1995 was overly positive. For example, the expansion of agricultural production and processing in the state in 1995 led to the employment of 337,868 workers. The figure equaled 24 percent of the total jobs in the state.

The agricultural production and processing sector in the same year added about $13 billion to the economy of the state. This figure was about 25 percent of all value added in the state. The aggregation of the wages and salaries of workers in the agricultural sector stood at $8.1 billion. This accounted for one-fourth of the total income of employees in 1995.

Statistics show that most of the jobs added to the economy in this period were in the agriculture, manufacturing, and trade sectors. The growth of agriculture in Arkansas and the nation at large are hinged to the food-processing sector. As of 1995, about 40 percent of value added to the state by manufacturing came from the processing of agricultural products. Arkansas economy is heavily dependent on agriculture and natural resources.

Arkansas Agricultural Sector In Recent Years

Arkansas recorded a GDP growth of 3.6 percent between the first quarter of 2015 to the first quarter of 2016. This was a notable increase when compared to the 2 percent that had prevailed in the recent years. However, it was noted that agriculture did not play a significant part in this growth, contributing only 0.6 percent. This meant that if agriculture was to be excluded the year-over-year growth rate would still be 3.0 percent—which is still a significant growth compared to the 2.0 percent of the previous quarters.

Much recently, the economy of Arkansas is gradually drifting from its heavy reliance on agriculture to accommodate other sectors. For example, the 2015 Real GDP Growth showed that the strongest sectors in the state were similar to those driving growths on the nationwide level. Besides agriculture, the sectors that made the most contribution to economic growth of the state and nation in 2015 included Information, Retail Trade, Health Care, and Construction.