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UConn Studying Economic Impact Of Agriculture

By Shawn R. Beals, Hartford Courant (6/18/10)

  JUNE 23, 2010 --

Driving through the rural areas of Connecticut makes it clear: Agriculture has a strong presence in the state.

Just how much of a presence is what a research team at the University of Connecticut is trying to figure out as it begins a study to put a value on the industry's contribution to the state economy.

Officials said the study's scope will go far beyond the average grower or laborer. Agriculture is hardly limited to the people milking cows and growing tomatoes - it provides jobs in energy, building, transportation and several other areas.

"Agriculture generates a lot of demand for other services," said Rigoberto Lopez, professor and head of the department of agriculture and resource economics.

Lopez and his UConn team plan to use economic theories and federal government data to determine the industry's contribution to the state economy.

"Agriculture is alive and well in Connecticut," Lopez said.

In fact, it's thriving, and it's worth more than $2.5 billion annually, if not more, Lopez said.

"Some people think that it's over, but it's just the opposite," he said.

The study is a larger version of one published in 2009 that focused only on the $1.1 billion dairy industry.

Steven Reviczky, director of the Connecticut Farm Bureau, said that the study helped dairy farmers get support from the state and the General Assembly.

"It put real numbers to the industry," he said of the dairy study. "It was one of the key components of being able to galvanize people around the dairy industry."

Several bills have been passed in the past two years that support dairy farmers, including subsidies and tax breaks, and officials credit the study with demonstarting how vital the industry is to the state.

"It was instrumental in getting a bill passed to support the industry for the next three years," Lopez said.

The state agriculture department said that it is looking forward to the results of the research.

"We hope nothing but good comes out of it because there's a lot of agriculture in Connecticut," said Robert Pellegrino, the department's marketing director.

The study - to be completed entirely by UConn staff with input from the farm bureau - will look at jobs and sales in different sectors, such as dairy, meat, vegetables, wineries, nurseries and tobacco, to add up the value of agriculture. The UConn department hopes to have a report finished by August.

"When we're competing for scarce dollars, whether it's state dollars or federal dollars, we want to have hard facts and hard numbers that tell a story," Reviczky said.



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