Feeding the US economy: Breaking down the $9.61T contribution made by the farm-to-fork sectors

By Gill Hyslop

- Last updated on GMT

The exceptional figures are 'testament to the hard work and resilience of everyone involved in this industry, from the farm to the bakery and beyond'. Pic: GettyImages/Jonathan Kitchen
The exceptional figures are 'testament to the hard work and resilience of everyone involved in this industry, from the farm to the bakery and beyond'. Pic: GettyImages/Jonathan Kitchen

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The American Bakers Association (ABA) and SNAC International are among the 32 food and agriculture organizations to publish the annual Feeding the Economy report, which breaks down some eye-popping numbers.

The eighth annual report reveals the total economic impact for the food and ag-related industries grew 11.8% over the past year – more than a trillion dollars – to reach $9.63 trillion. This accounts for 20% of the nation’s total output. Retail grocery businesses alone, directly generate $307.74bn in economic activity nationally.

The farm-to-fork economic impact study – which was released on March 19 in conjunction with National Agriculture Day – shows the significant role the food and ag sectors play in supporting the US economy and helps the public and policymakers better understand how these industries continue to promote those contributions.

It measures the total economic impact of the food and agriculture industries using ‘direct and indirect economic activity’ from these industries. Research was conducted by John Dunham & Associates and funded by The Goodstone Group.

The farm-to-fork journey

Feeding the economy graph

The food and ag industries, as defined in this study, include businesses involved in food agriculture, food manufacturing, food wholesaling and food retailing.

It starts on the farm, with nearly two million farms and ranches covering two out of every five American acres.

Meanwhile, millions of food scientists, production workers, logistics experts, truck drivers and engineers work in more than 200,000 food manufacturing, processing and storage facilities to keep the nation’s food supply chains running smoothly, to deliver fresh, safe food across the globe.

The journey continues to the more than one million restaurant and foodservice locations, and approximately 200,000 retail food stores across the US.

Economic benefits continue through suppliers that produce and sell a broad range of essential items and provide services. A number of people, too, are employed in government enterprises responsible for the regulation of the food and agriculture industries. All told, the researchers estimate the industry is responsible for 12.39 million supplier jobs. These firms generate about $3,099.52 billion in economic activity.

The story doesn’t stop there. Also considered is ‘the multiplier effect’ – the spending by employees or that of indirect firms whose jobs are dependent on the food and ag sectors on  everything from housing to food to education and medical care. For 2024, the induced impact of the industry generates 12.41 million jobs and $2,714.90bn in economic impact, for a multiplier of 0.71.

Feeding the economy graph 2

Drilling down

From the release of the 2020 Feeding the Economy report to now, food and agriculture manufacturing jobs grew at a faster rate than any other job category.

The study found the food and ag sector supports 23.87 million of the more than 48,665,870 jobs that are in those industries. This is up 19.53% since 2020, today accounting for more than 15% of US employment.  This is more than twice as many as automobile manufacturing.

There were almost the same number of jobs in agriculture and manufacturing agricultural products, at 2.49m and 2.46m, respectively). The number of direct jobs in food and agriculture was up 20% - almost 800,000 – since the 2020 report. 

Of the $9.63T output:

$2.77T make up total wages - $990.70bn of which are direct – up 33.82% since the 2020 report.

$3.82T is direct output, or about 7.93% of total national output.

Feeding the economy graph 3

$1.25T make up business taxes – up 36.91% since the 2020 report. The direct taxes paid by firms in the retail sector (and their employees) alone provide $737.52bn to the Federal Government and $512.93bn to state and local governments.

$181bn make up exports – down 2.70% since the 2020 report.

The report also drills down into data specific to the state or congressional district, for example:

 

New York

Texas

California

Total output

$456.6bn

$806.8bn

$1.1T

Jobs

2,329,850

4.571.226

5,715,018

Wages

$161.3bn

$235.2bn

$377.7bn

Taxes

$80.2bn

$96.9bn

$195.3bn

Exports

$2.5bn

$13.8bn

$26.2bn

While the report provides valuable insights into jobs, wages and economic output, it highlights the sector’s resilience and reliability amidst ongoing global and domestic challenges, such as supply chain disruptions and the effects of recent international events.

“The Feeding the Economy report affirms the vital role the food and agriculture sector plays in our nation’s economy,” said ABA’s CEO and president Eric Dell.

“It’s a testament to the hard work and resilience of everyone involved in this industry, from the farm to the bakery and beyond.”

Added Christine Cochran, president and CEO of SNAC International, “The snack industry is proud to be a vital part of the US economy and food and agriculture sectors, employing over 395,000 Americans who play an important role in providing a sense of comfort and excitement in consumers’ everyday lives,” said Christine Cochran, president & CEO.

“The snack industry continues to grow each year, boosting the economy and creating employment opportunities. Our snack industry workers, from processors and manufacturers to seasoning and packaging producers, are committed to providing nutritious, fun and innovative snacks to consumers across the US.”

Said Leslie G. Sarasin, president and CEO of FMI, the Food Industry Association, “From the agriculture sector to food retail, wholesale and product manufacturers – the entire food industry connects shoppers to essential products they need to keep their families healthy and nourished.

“This year’s Feeding the Economy study continues to demonstrate the powerful economic impact of the food and agriculture sector on feeding America and growing the nation’s economy – responsibilities we all take very seriously.”

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