The value of the industry is $8.5 billion, which is 10 percent of the state’s total economy.”

The poultry industry, he says, is dependent upon corn and soybeans as feed, and Alabama is a deficit state in both corn and soybean production.

“We now have a severe drought in the Midwestern Corn Belt. There’s always a risk with having a lot of your production concentrated in one area of the country. Prices already are high and probably will continue to go up.

“Alabama uses 150 million bushels of corn, with a lot of that being used by our poultry and livestock industries. But we only produce 30 million bushels, so we import 120 million bushels of corn into Alabama, largely to support our poultry industry.”

Mississippi, on the other hand, is not a deficit corn-producing state, he says.

“They probably were 20 years ago, but they made a decision not to be any longer. If Alabama could become self sufficient in corn production, at 120 million bushels of corn, at a conservative estimate of $6 per bushel, that would be $720 million of income that we could keep in the state that we’re sending out of the state now.

“If you use a multiplier for agricultural production, you can get up to $2.5 billion and as many as 9,000 jobs.

“We’re almost in the same situation with soybeans, as far as the economic impact. The combined effect of increased soybean and corn production in the state would be $1.5 billion in direct money that we could keep within the state. It would be a tremendous economic driver.”

Fowler points out that corn and soybeans are just two examples, with Alabama farmers also growing cotton, peanuts and horticultural crops. “We have a lot of potential to improve the rural economy of the state with increased irrigation.”

phollis@farmpress.com