The study indicates agriculture, forestry and fisheries production generates $240 billion in regional economic activity within the Southern Region and supports over 2.2 million jobs with labor income totaling $62 billion, underscoring the importance of the tie between the Land Grant University Extension Service and Experiment Station System and agriculture's significant contribution to the economy and other quality of life factors.

In addition, the study notes the downstream processing of agriculture, forestry, and fisheries output into value-added food and industrial products adds an additional $1 trillion in output across the Southern Region's economy and almost 4.6 million jobs with labor income totaling over $200 billion.

"Throughout our hundred-year history, Cooperative Extension has set the pace of change in agriculture, natural resources and rural America," said Beverly Sparks, chair of the Association of Southern Region Extension Directors and Associate Dean for Extension, University of Georgia. "In today's fast-changing world, we must provide the best decision-making tools and Extension education possible to farmers, ranchers, families and communities.

“It is imperative the Southern region be well-prepared to take advantage of the tremendous potential we have before us."

Tripp added: "In our science and technology-based economic development practice at Battelle, we have observed the consistent rise of agbioscience as a core driver of economic growth and business expansion opportunities for the U.S. This is an extremely dynamic sector, leveraging sustainable biobased resources to produce goods that meet large-scale market needs.

“The Southern Region is a global leader in traditional agricultural economic activity and can count itself as one of a select few regions in the world that is also leading the charge in emerging areas of the modern bioeconomy."

A major conclusion of the report highlights the importance of ongoing stakeholder support.

The Southern Region's Extension Service and Experiment Station System represents a uniquely powerful resource for sustaining and securing the region's competitiveness and leadership in what is, and will be, a sector of core economic, social, and strategic importance.

In recognition of this importance, the system is traditionally supported by federal, state, and local governments, and by industry, producers, commodity organizations and other key stakeholders.

The study insists this support must not only be sustained, but “ideally — given the size and scope of grand domestic and global challenges addressed by the agbiosciences — should be significantly expanded so that the Southern Region can take advantage of the large-scale opportunities presented.”

As agriculture advances in the 21st century, the bioeconomy of the Southern Region will no doubt expand to meet the growing need for food, fuel and fiber.

Through Land Grant university systems, Extension services and experiment stations, the partnership between science, academic institutions and business is expected to grow, adding depth to the overall impact of agriculture on society.

The challenge may well be attracting young professionals who recognize the value of the emerging agriculture support industry in the years ahead.

 

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