Data Sense: Recent data highlight importance of agriculture

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Kate Nowak

Colorado State University recently released a study called “The Value Chain of Colorado’s Agriculture.” The study draws upon data collected through the USDA Agriculture Census of 2002 and 2007, among other data sources. The study finds that agriculture contributes at least $40 billion to the state’s economy and is one of the largest industry sectors. The study also maps the economic relationships among the various sectors of Colorado’s agricultural industry. The report highlights the importance of agriculture to Colorado and the Yampa Valley.

Agricultural lands are important not only because of the beautiful vistas they provide but also because of the substantial local revenue that agriculture products generate. Total agriculture sales in Moffat County were $28 million as of 2007, according to the USDA Agriculture Census. The majority of that income came from small farms. According to the census, 72 percent of the ranches and farms in Moffat County are less than 1,000 acres and are considered mid- to small-size operations.

These farms derive their income from many different sources. One current trend in agriculture is sales of products that are produced for individuals to consume. According to the census data, the value of agriculture products sold to individuals increased 50 percent from $279,000 to $418,000. We expect these numbers to be even higher when the 2012 census figures are released next February.

The census data also reveal that Northwest Colorado leads the state in farm-based recreation income. Farm-based recreation income is mainly derived from hunting and fishing. In Moffat County, recreation income jumped from $1.3 million to $4.4 million between 2002 and 2007. Moffat County’s share of farm-based recreation income ranked the highest in the state, at 13.7 percent.

The CSU “Value Chain of Colorado Agriculture” report and the census data provide us with a look at “farm to fork” in Colorado and helps us understand the importance of agriculture to the Yampa Valley. As the numbers reveal, agriculture plays a role in sustaining the local economy and maintaining our way of life in the Yampa Valley.

Kate Nowak is the executive director of Yampa Valley Data Partners.

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