The agriculture industry provides us with much more than three meals a day; it is an economic driver in addition to providing us with the fuel and fiber we need to get through the day. We all know that farm and ranch families make up less than 2% of the US population.
The agriculture industry, however, includes more than just the farmers and ranchers who grow our food. Agriculture, food, and related industries employ 10.3 percent of the American workforce, according to the USDA’s Economic Research Service.
The ERS reported 19.7 million full- and part-time jobs in the agricultural and food sectors in 2020, accounting for 10.3 percent of total U.S. employment. Direct on-farm employment accounted for approximately 2.6 million of these jobs or 1.4 percent of total employment in the United States.
Another 17.1 million jobs were supported by employment in agriculture and food-related industries. Food service, eating and drinking establishments accounted for the lion’s share of this, accounting for 10.5 million jobs. 3.3 million jobs were supported by food and beverage stores. Another 3.3 million jobs were added by the remaining agriculture-related industries combined.
When compared to 2012 data, this is exciting news for the agricultural industry. Agriculture accounted for only 16.5 million full- and part-time jobs in 2012, accounting for 9.2 percent of total U.S. employment. That equates to 3.2 million new jobs in the agriculture sector in the last nine years. This demonstrates that the industry is brimming with opportunities for future agriculture students and workers.
According to the ERS website, over 2.6 million of these jobs were provided by direct on-farm employment in 2012. Another 13.9 million jobs were supported by employment in related industries. Food services and drinking places supported the most jobs (10.8 million), while food manufacturing supported 1.5 million. Another 1.5 million jobs were supported by the remaining agriculture-related industries.
Agriculture accounts for more than 10% of all jobs in the United States, and it has a significant impact on the economy. Agriculture, food, and related industries contributed $1.109 trillion to the US GDP in 2019, accounting for 5.2 percent of total GDP. According to the ERS, farm output contributed $136.1 billion of this total or about 0.6 percent of GDP.
Agriculture’s overall contribution to GDP is actually greater than 0.6 percent because agricultural-related industries rely on agricultural inputs to add value to the economy. Agriculture-related industries include food and beverage manufacturing, food and beverage stores, food services and eating and drinking establishments, textiles, apparel, and leather products, as well as forestry and fishing.