As the California economy works to get back on solid ground, many hope to see the state capitalize on its strong agriculture sector.
“It’s one of the real bright spots in the economy. In the last six years, California agriculture has doubled its exports (to about $630 billion) and is on track to double them again in the next few years,” said Dr. Glenda Humiston, state director of rural development for the USDA.
Humiston told the CA Fwd Radio show that the “ag value chain” can create more than 100,000 jobs in the state within five years.
“The value chain is everything in between the farm and the consumer’s fork. And, you can take it even further than that, because before the farm, you’ve got tractor, seed, and fertilizer, the steps that make the farm run,” Humiston said. “If California would employ a strategy to pursue more of that value chain activity – processing, cooking, marketing, packaging, transportation, distribution – in state, we could produce over 181,000 jobs within the next five years. These are really good paying jobs, averaging about $24 an hour.”
The issue is that much of the infrastructure needed to capitalize on the “ag value chain” does not even exist right now.
“For example, we know there’s huge demand for grass fed beef, local lamb, or organic pork – and yet to get from the producer to the consumer, we don’t have the harvesting units, the slaughter houses, the cut and wrap, the cold storage, and that’s true for many other farm products, as well. So, getting those bits of infrastructure in place is a high priority,” Humiston said. “It’s going to require capital. But, the beauty of it is, as we build those, that’s jobs. Then, as people are working those, that’s jobs, as well.”
Beyond jobs, Humiston hopes to see a partnership between the urban and rural sectors in the state.
“At least 65 percent of those (jobs) are going to be in our cities and in our rural communities,” she said. “We don’t want these facilities out on our farmland. We want that land farming.”
For more about the California economic summit, go to CAeconomy.org.