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Study: Ag, forestry have $70 B impact on Alabama

Phillip Rawls, Associated Press

MONTGOMERY, Ala. (AP) -- Alabama's agricultural and forestry industries contribute $70.4 billion annually to the state's economy and account for 22 percent of its work force, according to a study released Tuesday.

The Alabama Agribusiness Council and other groups joined Gov. Robert Bentley in releasing the study. Bentley said the last similar study was done in 1989, and the new study by Auburn University shows how important agriculture and forestry are to Alabama's economy. Using government statistics, sales figures and other data from 2010-2012, the Auburn study said agriculture and forestry account for 580,295 jobs in Alabama.

Officials said one reason for the study was to remind people not to overlook Alabama's farmers when they talk about growing the state's economy.

"This study clearly indicates that agriculture, forestry and agribusiness are the backbone of Alabama's economy, and amount to some 40 percent of the state's $175 billion gross domestic product," state Agriculture Commissioner John McMillan said.

Jimmy Parnell, a Chilton County farmer and president of the Alabama Farmers Federation, said, "This is something we know in our hearts, but it's nice to have facts that prove we are such a vital part of Alabama's economy."

The study found that timber production and processing have the top economic impact, generating $21.4 billion and providing 122,020 jobs. That's followed by poultry and egg production at $15.1 billion and 86,237 jobs.

Johnny Adams, executive director of the Alabama Poultry and Egg Association, said business is looking up, with domestic consumption of chicken growing and exports increasing to Asia.

The report noted that hunting, sport fishing, and wildlife watching contribute $3.6 billion to Alabama's economy and provide 42,319 jobs.