Tennessee’s economy and identity are closely tied to its multifaceted agriculture industry. Agricultural production alone generates nearly $3.85 billion annually in farm cash receipts, with additional economic impact through processing, manufacturing, transportation and exports.
The “Volunteer State” cultivates an agriculture industry as diverse as the state itself. Boasting three different types of land, West, Middle and East Tennessee range from flat row-crop land to mountainous terrain. Crops, livestock and forestry flourish across the distinct regions.
An impressive 76,000 farms account for 40 percent of the state’s land area, or a total of 10.8 million acres of farmland. The farms average approximately 142 acres each, and farmers produce a wide range of commodities, including livestock, equine, row crops, vegetable and fruit crops, grapes for wine and more.
Lush, rolling fields create the ideal setting for raising livestock. Cattle and calves top the commodity list in Tennessee and are found on 53 percent of farms in the state. Approximately 97 percent of the nation’s cattle farms are family-owned, almost half of which have remained in the same family for more than 50 years. In addition to cattle, Tennessee ranks No. 2 for goat production and No. 6 for equine.
Row crops flourish in the varied Tennessee climate, with soybeans, corn, cotton, tobacco and wheat all in the state’s top ten industries. Crop cash receipts totaled $2.3 billion in 2012, led by soybeans with $592 million.
The Tennessee economy also receives a boost from international sales of agricultural products, with exports of ag products representing more than $900 million each year.
Forestry is a major contributor to the agriculture sector. The USDA Forest Service reports that timberland covers 50 percent of Tennessee, and the majority is privately owned.
According to UT AIM-AG, the primary forest industries provide more than 35,000 jobs, while secondary forest industries provide an additional 55,000 jobs. Tennessee boasts more species of trees than any other state, and consistently ranks in the top five for hardwood lumber production.
Read on for more agriculture statistics and information from the USDA National Agricultural Statistics Service, Tennessee Field Office.