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Agriculture is bumper crop for Utah's economy

SALT LAKE CITY — Utah's agricultural sector pumped more than $21 billion into the state's economy, according to an analysis of 2014 numbers, making it just slightly more than 15 percent of the state's total financial output.

"We have always known how important agriculture is to the state of Utah," said LuAnn Adams, Utah's agriculture commissioner. "It has been important since pioneers first came into our state, and it is important today. It creates jobs, it improves our quality of life, and it sustains our local food industry."

An analysis of the most recent numbers available performed by Utah State University and released Tuesday detailed direct and indirect impacts of production agriculture, the agriculture processing sector and food manufacturing.

Raising crops and revenue derived from the sale of livestock generated $2.4 billion, while the agricultural processing sector produced $10.7 billion. Indirect impacts and rippling effects of the industry also combine to bring the total jobs in the agricultural sector to close to 80,000 workers.

Ruby Ward, the study's author and a professor in the university's Department of Applied Economics, said the numbers show that agriculture is continuing to have a big impact in the state, despite the pressures of urbanization.

The report notes that agriculture weathered the effects of the Great Recession in Utah much better than the state as a whole. From 2009 to 2014, for example, the state's gross output rose by 21.1 percent, compared to agricultural receipts that shot up more than 85 percent.

Utah's agricultural sector extends beyond traditional dairy farms or apple orchards.

Ward's study revealed the impacts the industry continues to have on Utah's more urban locations.

"In both urban and rural areas, there are some really significant impacts on our jobs from agriculture," Ward said.

Statewide, there are an estimated 114,500 manufacturing jobs, with just over 14 percent of those in food manufacturing.

In the Logan area alone, food manufacturing dominates, accounting for 32 percent of all manufacturing jobs. There are a variety of companies in the region, including Pepperidge Farm, Gossner's Food, Cox Honeyland and Schreiber's Foods.

In addition, Hyrum is home to what is still locally referred to as the E.A. Miller meat processing plant, built in 1936. It was acquired in 2007 by JBS USA, which launched a $75 million expansion a couple of years ago.

The plant processes nearly 500,000 cattle a year, a portion of which head to overseas markets.