Alabama’s agriculture industry and those who are a part of it are multifaceted, whether they are farmers in the field tending to the state’s top crops, such as cotton, corn and soybeans; chefs in the kitchen serving farm-fresh produce to consumers across the state; or researchers in the lab figuring out the best ways to keep consumers safe.
With 43,223 farms spread across 8.9 million acres throughout Alabama, averaging about 206 acres in size, the Yellowhammer State flaunts its strength in agriculture. In fact, agriculture and forestry are two of the top industries in the state. One out of every 4.6 jobs is related to agriculture, and the industry contributes approximately $70.4 billion to Alabama’s annual economy.
Alabama’s top commodities include poultry, cattle and calves, greenhouse and nursery, cotton, and soybeans. The state makes its mark nationally, ranking second in the country in broilers, catfish and quail; third for forestland, peanuts and sod; and sixth for pecans. Forestry is also an important part of the state’s agriculture sector. Alabama boasts the third most timber acreage in the U.S., behind Georgia and Oregon.
More than crops and commodities, Alabama agriculture encompasses aspects of tourism, research and innovative technologies, agribusiness, conservation methods and land preservation, and agricultural education, all preparing future growers.
Schools across the state, including Auburn University, Alabama A&M, Tuskegee University, and others, offer several agriculture programs and areas of study. Women are also taking the lead in the industry. In 2013, females comprised 55 percent of Auburn University’s College of Agriculture students, which totaled 1,300.
A continued effort for innovative solutions and increased crop yields keeps Alabama agriculture on top.
Agriculture and electricity go hand in hand. Whether they’re using energy to heat and cool poultry houses or raising crops to produce biofuels, farmers rely heavily on power, directly linking the two industries.
Alabama Power works in conjunction with farmers to protect natural resources while providing affordable electricity. The company manages hydroelectric plants and dams that provide more than 3,500 miles of shoreline for the public and has also helped restore 26,000 acres of longleaf pine habitat. It’s also the leading purchaser of out- of-state wine farms, garnering enough energy to power more than 100,000 homes.
Tools of the Trade
If Congress decides to lift the embargo on trade and travel with and to Cuba, Alabama will be well- positioned.
The state’s agriculture industry supported $33 million in agricultural sales to the island in 2014, but currently farmers can’t access credit for selling to Cuba.
Cuba already imports many agricultural goods from the U.S., including wheat, corn, rice, poultry, pork, soybeans and animal feed. In 2012, about one-fourth – 42 tons – of annual frozen chicken shipments to Cuba came from Alabama.
A lift on the embargo would mean exciting opportunities for Alabama farmers and possibly expanding to other Alabama industries as well.
Alabama is NUTS for peanuts. The legumes (related to peas and beans) consistently rank in the state’s top 10 agricultural commodities, and in 2012, the Yellowhammer State harvested around 834.7 million pounds of peanuts from just under 218,000 acres.
Alabama’s crop is used for food products, such as peanut butter, candy and peanut oil, and approximately half of the U.S.’s crop is grown within a 100-mile radius of Dothan.
In 2015, the Alabama Peanut Producers Association shared the wealth, donating 4,300 jars of peanut butter to the Montgomery Area Food Bank. That’s enough jars to make more than 72,000 peanut butter sandwiches.