It’s no secret that Stanislaus County’s agriculture is a force to be reckoned with, but how vital of a role do the local orchards, dairies and farms play in sustaining a healthy economy? An analysis unveiled by the agricultural commissioner’s office this week took a step beyond the annual crop report, quantifying the industry’s economic contributions that solidify its role as an important pillar of the County’s cultural past and competitive future.
The Economic Contributions of Stanislaus County Agriculture report marked the first time a study of its kind has been done on the county in about 40 years. While much has changed in the area during this time, from globalization to mechanization and technology, Stanislaus County’s dependence on agriculture has remained the same.
The study shows that in 2017, agriculture contributed a total of $7.148 billion to the county economy, far exceeding the $3.649 billion figure from the 2017 Stanislaus County Agricultural Report. While the annual agricultural report details crop production values and acreage, the economic contributions report goes even further, analyzing production, local processing, employment and economic multiplier effects.
The figure of $7.148 billion contributed by Stanislaus County agriculture in 2017 accounts for 11.5 percent of the county’s total economic output for the year, said Dr. Jeff Langholz, who conducted the study along with Dr. Fernando DePaolis.
“To put it further into context, if you were to clock this on a daily or hourly basis, it would end up being agriculture contributing $815,000 per hour, or a little over $19 million per day,” Langholz said.
Agriculture supported 29,192 direct employees in Stanislaus County, accounting for just over one out of every eight jobs. When multiplier effects are added in, the total number of agriculture-related employees rises to 34,425.
Multiplier effects, also referred to as “ripples” by Langholz and DePaolis, can consist of interactions like business-to-business supplier purchases, like buyers purchasing farm equipment, fertilizer, seed or even banking services, known as indirect effects. Induced effects are another type of ripple which consist of consumption spending by owners or employees of a business; for example, buying groceries, housing, healthcare, or even money spent on leisure activities.
The report also takes a look at the county’s resiliency when it comes to economic shocks. Risks like droughts, floods, disease outbreaks, new regulations, new competitors and trade wars, among others, can deal damaging blows to any economy. The key to lowering these risks is a diverse economy that depends on many products, rather than a select few. An area’s resiliency depends on its diversity, Lanholz said.
“You’ve all heard that saying, ‘Don’t keep all of your eggs in one basket,’ and with agriculture it’s especially the case. There are a lot of things that can go wrong,” he said. “We measured for the first time how economically diversified, how insulated is (the county) from these economic shocks.”
For 2017, Stanislaus County’s agricultural industry measured 0.57 on the Shannon-Weaver Index, which is used to quantify diversity. Over the past decade, Stanislaus County has consistently produced 28 major commodities. The number is quite high compared to other California counties analyzed thus far, the report said, suggesting solid protection from economic shocks.
The county’s number on the Shannon-Weaver Index has remained consistent over the past decade as well, the report points out, providing even more protection from economic shock. For example, the county saw a 15 percent drop in almond production value in 2010, which could have proved catastrophic if not for its diverse agricultural economy. Instead of crisis, other commodities like milk, cattle, chicken, cherries and tomatoes saw large increases in value, compensating for the loss in almonds.
“We talk about why do this study, and that’s to go beyond just how much is agriculture worth, but to put it into context in terms of how important it is to a thriving local economy,” Langholz said.
To view the entire Economic Contributions of Stanislaus County Agriculture report, visit stanag.org.