The economic impact of agriculture and forestry in Virginia was $91 billion in 2016, up 30 percent from $70 billion in 2013, state officials announced Tuesday. The total employment impact of the two industries increased by about 7 percent to 442,200 jobs, or about 9 percent of total employment in the state.

The numbers are from a study led by Terry Rephann of the Weldon Cooper Center for Public Service at the University of Virginia. The research found that agriculture accounted for $70 billion of the $91 billion total in 2016, and forestry contributed $21 billion. The last study on the economic impact of agriculture and forestry — the state’s largest industries — was done in 2013.

Gov. Terry McAuliffe and Virginia Secretary of Agriculture and Forestry Basil Gooden announced the numbers during a news conference at the Bell Tower on Capitol Square in Richmond on Tuesday. “Folks, that is an extraordinary number,” McAuliffe said of the $91 billion impact. “Not many industries grow at 30 percent,” he said. Gooden said the growth has come from international exports of farm and forest products, growth in poultry and beef product markets, and the expansion of specialty industries such as craft beverages and shellfish aquaculture.

McAuliffe said he has approved about 40 economic development grants specifically targeted at agriculture-related projects during his term. Those grants have come from the Governor’s Agriculture and Forestry Industries Development Fund, which helps finance economic development projects that utilize Virginia agricultural products.

He also touted his administration’s efforts to promote Virginia agriculture products on international trade missions, such as promoting Virginia lumber in India and apples in Mexico. Other activities related to agriculture and forestry, such as agritourism, wine tourism, equestrian events and agricultural festivals, were not included in the study.

From the Richmond Times-Dispatch: http://www.richmond.com/business/local/state-officials-economic-impact-of-agriculture-and-forestry-rose-percent/article_df1c1832-40b1-5182-8df6-28873eabd911.html