A new report from Michigan State University and the Michigan Department of Agriculture found there is at least one bright spot in Michigan’s battered economy – the food and agriculture business.

According to the report from MSU’s Product Center for Agriculture and Natural Resources, Michigan’s second-largest industry experienced a 12 percent growth in 2007, the year the study was conducted.

“Agriculture is a force for economic stability in Michigan, with yearly economic impact estimated to be $71.3 billion, on the basis of data from 2007,” said Christopher Peterson, director of the MSU Product Center and a study author. “This represents a $7.6 billion increase from the $63.7 billion impact projected in an analysis of 2006 data released last year.”

The study, “Second Interim Update on the Economic Impact of Michigan’s Agri-Food and Agri-Energy System,” considers economic contributions from agriculture, food and related industries, including nursery, turfgrass, ethanol, ornamental plants and food processing.
  
“Michigan’s agri-food system represents almost 20 percent of the state’s overall economic engine, making it the second-largest industry in Michigan, and it employs a quarter of the state’s workforce,” said Don Koivisto, director of the Michigan Department of Agriculture. “This report further underscores the importance of this growing industry in rebuilding and diversifying Michigan’s economy.”

The study shows the agricultural economy expanding at a rate more than five times faster than the growth rate of the general economy (11.9 percent vs. 2 percent) between 2006 and 2007.

“If Michigan’s agri-food sector appeared on the Fortune 500 list, it would rank 55th,” Koivisto said. “To me, that speaks volumes about the vitality of the state’s dynamic food and agriculture business sectors, and the intrinsic role it plays in our state’s economic health.”

Evidence also suggests that employment in the agri-food system has increased since the last economic census data was made available in 2004.

“Our last analysis showed Michigan’s agri-food system accounting for 1.05 million jobs, both directly and indirectly,” said William Knudson, product market economist, MSU Product Center, and the study’s lead author. “We won’t have updated job figures until 2010, but signs point to job growth, putting Michigan jobs related to agri-food well over 1 million.”

Knudson cautions, however, that the agri-food industry may have hit its peak for the next few years.

“Food is a necessity, so the agri-food industry, unlike tourism and manufactured goods, may fare better than other industries in an economic downturn,” Knudson said. “But the system is not immune to the impacts of the global recession.”

The study is available online at www.productcenter.msu.edu under the tab for Market Reports. It is also available on the MSU Project GREEEN (http://greeen.msu.edu) Web site.

The MSU data further support growth trends demonstrated in the recently released U.S. Department of Agriculture 2007 Census of Agriculture, which showed a $2 billion increase in farm gate sales since 2002. For more information on the USDA 2007 Census of Agriculture, visit www.nass.usda.gov.

The MSU Product Center provides coordinated, university-wide assistance to help Michigan entrepreneurs develop and commercialize high-value, consumer-responsive products and businesses in the agriculture, food, natural resources and bioeconomy sectors. The Product Center is a single gateway for Michigan entrepreneurs to access MSU expertise. For more information, visit www.productcenter.msu.edu or call 517-432-8750.