Study shows Pinal County one of top agriculture suppliers

Sheep on Empire Road. (Arianna Grainey, Independent Newsmedia)

A recently released study from the University of Arizona’s Department of Agriculture and Resources Economics confirms what many local farmers and ranchers have known for a long time – Pinal County’s agriculture footprint in the state and beyond is remarkable.

The study begins by saying that Pinal County ranks in the top 2 percent of all U.S. counties in the total value of agriculture sales. It also highlights that the county also ranks in the top 1 percent in cotton, cottonseed sales, milk sales and inventories of cattle and calves, according to a release.

Steve Miller

While looking over the study, District 3 Supervisor Steve Miller said that he knew Pinal County ranked high in agriculture production, the numbers were still an eye opener.

“I look at these numbers and it doesn’t surprise me that we are a top supplier of milk and other dairy products in the state,” Mr. Miller said said in the release. “But you look at the nationwide numbers and you realize that we are a major player when it comes to agriculture production for the United States. Emphasis on ‘a major player.’”

The study also placed the county in the top 4 percent of all counties in acreage for barley, corn and forage crops.

“If you want to know why water is so important to Pinal County,” the supervisor said, “just look at this study.”

In a hypothetical irrigation water loss, the University of Arizona said the effects on Pinal County and its economy would be enormous.

If there were a loss of 300,000 acre feet of water, the study estimated the following:

  •  $63.5 million to $66.7 million loss in gross farm-gate sales (this accounts for 7 percent)
  •  $94 million to $104 million loss in total county sales (farm and non-farm sales)
  •  $31.7 million to $35 million loss in county value added (this includes net farm income, profits in other industries, employee compensation and tax revenues)
  •  240 to 480 in full and part-time jobs lost

Pinal County Economic Development Program Manager Tim Kanavel said the loss would be not only felt in Pinal County, but across the nation.

“Anytime you have a stoppage or slowdown in production, prices go up,” Mr. Kanavel said in the release. “This study shows damaging effects across the county, but the U.S. consumer would be feeling the ripple from such a cutback in water.”

Statewide, the study reports that Pinal County accounts for the following:

  • 45 percent of cattle and calf sales
  • 42 percent of cotton and cottonseed sales
  • 39 percent of milk sales
  • 22 percent of other crops and hay sales

Todd House

“Our farming community is the backbone of our economic development success,” Todd House, Board of Supervisors chairman, said in the release. “Many of these operations are family owned and have stayed that way for decades. They have been through the up and downs and have always supplied our county, our state and our nation with the agriculture goods we need.”

When it came to the agribusiness totals, the study found that a quarter of Pinal County manufacturing jobs are in this sector, providing 33 percent of the total manufacturing wages.

The latest numbers available to the study are from 2016. During that time Pinal County’s economy was a major beneficiary when it came to the contribution of on-farm agriculture and agribusiness, according to the release.

The study showed the following from on-farm agriculture:

  • $1.1 billion in sales
  • $372.8M in value added to the county
  •  Nearly 5,200 full and part-time jobs

Looking at agriculture and agribusiness as a whole:

  • Nearly $2.3 billion in sales
  • $611.1 million in value added to the county
  • More than 7,500 jobs

“I know a lot of the economic development news coming out of Pinal County has to do a lot with hi-tech and the future of transportation,” Supervisor Miller said in the release. “But we cannot and will not forget that Pinal County ranchers and farmers play a major role in producing the goods that feed and clothe America.”

The Board of Supervisors will be considering a resolution regarding this study at its Jan. 9 regular session meeting, according to the release.

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