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American Agriculture Supports 16 Million Jobs
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Senate Agriculture Committee convenes first hearing of new congress. Governor Snyder's new Ag Director Keith Creagh, USDA Secretary Vilsack testify.

Source: US Senator Debbie Stabenow

American Agriculture Supports 16 Million Jobs

WASHINGTON – U.S. Senator Debbie Stabenow, D-Mich., Chairwoman of the U.S. Senate Committee on Agriculture, Nutrition and Forestry, said today that American agriculture is supporting 16 million jobs and is one of few industries leading the economic recovery. Stabenow made the comments at the Committee's first hearing of the 112th Congress, where Members and witnesses examined agriculture's effect on the U.S. economy. Keith Creagh, Governor Rick Snyder's newly appointed Director of the Michigan Department of Agriculture & Rural Development, testified at the hearing on the importance of agriculture, the state's second-largest industry, to Michigan's economy.

"Rarely have we seen a more positive outlook for the agricultural economy as a whole," Stabenow said. "This should come as no surprise to any of us: American farmers and ranchers produce the safest, most nutritious and most sustainable agricultural products in the world. In fact, one of the biggest success stories in our nation's economy is the strength of our farm exports. For the second year in a row, agricultural exports are projected to be over $100 billion ... Our agricultural exports will support over one million jobs this year alone -- and these jobs are not just on the farm but in towns and cities all across the country."

Stabenow pointed to her state of Michigan, where agriculture is the second-largest industry, as an example of a state poised to continue strengthening an already robust sector. "Agriculture represents more than $70 billion for our economy each year, and represents one out of every four jobs in my state," she said.

Keith Creagh, Director of the Michigan Department of Agriculture & Rural Development, provided a snapshot the agriculture economy from a state perspective, highlighting agriculture's role as a jobs creator and also identifying new opportunities for investment and growth.    

"Michigan's agri-food industry is a robust and high tech industry that will undoubtedly serve as one of Michigan's, and the nation's, foundations to our long term, sustainable economic recovery," Creagh said. "At a time when 850,000 jobs were lost in Michigan, our agricultural economy experienced a decade of growth. It expanded at a rate of more than five times faster than the rate of the general economy between 2006 and 2007.  Further, since 2007, we have seen a 27 percent increase, making agriculture a cornerstone in diversifying Michigan's economic future.  As a result of our diverse soils, crops, fresh water, and climate we are well-positioned to continue this growth and expansion at all levels of production.  Currently, we produce over 200 commodities on a commercial basis; and lead the nation in 18 of these."

Creagh also thanked Stabenow for her leadership in agriculture and her commitment to strengthening Michigan's economy and workforce through continuing to work closely with state officials.

"On behalf of the State of Michigan, Governor Rick Snyder, and all of us at the Michigan Department of Agriculture and Rural Development, I want to express our appreciation for your commitment and leadership on food and agriculture issues," he said. "We also recognize the remarkable new opportunities for rural America, and we look forward to a continued partnership with you to assure Michigan's food and agricultural industry is strategically aligned to enhance our growth opportunities as we reinvent Michigan."

U.S. Department of Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack underscored the strength of the national farm economy in 2011, pointing to record-breaking growth in exports, farm cash receipts and farm income as key drivers.

"Cash receipts for producers are forecast at a record $341 billion in 2011, up $28 billion from 2010 and $57 billion from 2009 ... After adjusting for inflation, five of the highest income years since 1976 have occurred during 2004-11," he said. "As we enter 2011, the U.S. farm economy is coming off unprecedented increases in U.S. agricultural exports, farm cash receipts, farm income, and asset values the past few years."

Additional witnesses included Mr. Fred Yoder, a farmer from Plain City, Ohio and former president of the National Corn Growers Association; Dr. Joe Outlaw, an economist with Texas A&M; and Mr. Thomas M. Hoenig, the president of the Federal Reserve Bank of Kansas City.

Senator Stabenow added, "I want to thank all our witnesses today, especially Director Keith Creagh from my home state.  Director Creagh I look forward to working with you and Governor Snyder to create Agriculture jobs in Michigan."

Chairwoman Stabenow's opening statement is below and an archived webcast of the hearing can be viewed on the Committee's web site by visiting http://agriculture.senate.gov.

Photos available at:http://www.flickr.com/photos/senatorstabenow/sets/72157626076590624/