Sorry Corbett, Agriculture is Not Even Close to PA’s “Number One Industry”

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Tim Stuhldreher beats me to the Farm Show talking points smackdown. Pennsylvania is a post-industrial urban economy with a whole lot of extra land area. Over three quarters of our GDP comes from the top five metros. Agriculture is not the number one industry, and is not even a significant employer:

“Every year we have an opportunity to gather in the arena here in Harrisburg to celebrate an industry that’s part of the foundation of the great Commonwealth of Pennsylvania. It accounts for $68 billion of our state’s economic production and employs one in seven Pennsylvanians. Agriculture is Pennsylvania’s number one industry,” Corbett said.

Corbett should amble over to the U.S. Bureau of Economic Analysis website. There, he would discover that “agriculture, forestry, fishing and hunting” accounted for $3.3 billion of Pennsylvania’s $600.9 billion economy in 2012, or slightly more than 0.5 percent.

Even if you use the “Market Value of Products Sold” in the USDA’s Census of Agriculture, which is calculated differently, that only gets you to $5.8 billion – still less than 1 percent of state GDP. Compare with manufacturing, at $70.6 billion per the BEA, and you begin to see the problem.

Nor does ag employ one in seven Pennsylvanians. If it did, that would work out to roughly 857,000 farmers out of our roughly 6-million-strong work force. How far below that are we? The Bureau of Labor Statistics counts just 5,700 people in “Farming, Fishing and Forestry Occupations.” [...]

So how does the ag industry get to $69 billion and employing one Pennsylvanian in seven? Basically, by counting everything and the kitchen sink, and hoping no one calls them on it. Food processing, packaging, trucking, food preparation – it’s all “ag.” Then all of that gets elided via a little marketing magic (which apparently involves Canadians) into the notion that these are all old guys in coveralls riding tractors in a sun-dappled cornfield.

Much more here.

This is why we need the big urban gathering of Pennsylvania politicians to be held in one of PA’s big cities – so we can fill their heads with stylized (and actually true!) facts about the urban economies that power our state. Philly and Pittsburgh together account for more than half of our state’s GDP. State politicians don’t know this, but they do know a bunch of stuff that isn’t so about PA’s agriculture economy because they’re exposed to all this false propaganda while pandering to rural voters at the Farm Show every year.

Here’s hoping Tom Corbett actually believes this shit, and that’s why he’s pandering to photos of Canadian farmers going into 2014.

This entry was posted in Miscellany.

11 Responses to Sorry Corbett, Agriculture is Not Even Close to PA’s “Number One Industry”

  1. Gdub says:

    Well, I’m still pretty sure that craft beer doesn’t have 1/3 of the economic impact of agriculture, based on yesterdays post!

  2. Gdub says:

    You don’t count food in the bar and restaurant industry?

  3. Gdub says:

    Why obviously? My general point is, if you want to understand the “impact” of anything [a rather vague economic term], don’t trust the industry’s figures, whether it be oil/gas drilling, agriculture, or beer.

  4. Jon Geeting says:

    You think the majority of food served in PA restaurants comes from Pennsylvania?

  5. Jon Geeting says:

    I don’t really trust the craft beer industry on $2B, but the general point there stands that we could sell more without fake supply-side constraints.

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