Agriculture is a $31 billion business is Indiana and is 16 percent of the White County GDP, according to Jeff Demerly of Demerly Ag Plus and of the local Farm Bureau.
However, there was a $17 billion “economic leakage” of potential economic advantage in 2015, he told the Rotary Club of Monticello on Friday.
He used soybeans as an example of leakage -- a crop leaving the area to be processed somewhere else.
White County should be able to mill the beans here and also feed them directly to local livestock, he said.
We need to grab the opportunities, he said.
There’s also a $5.1 billion leakage through forest and wood products from White County.
Demerly also spoke overall about the future of farming.
“We’ve got a generational shift coming,” he said.
The average age of the United States farmer is 58, and 20 percent of the new generation of farming are newcomers to it and didn’t grow up in farming.
The change is coming hard and fast, he said.
Demerly said there will be opportunities for young people in agriculture, despite the consolidation of seed and chemical businesses.
“You have to be willing to relocate,” he said.
There will also be a need for 70 percent more food by 2050, he said.
Farms will need to feed 9 billion people instead of the 7.3 billion now.
However, exports are down over the last five years, and the recent news that the United States won’t participate in the Trans Pacific Partnership will mean our country’s farmers won’t get access to countries like Japan, he said.
In the global market, farmers do not have control.
Their business “relates a lot to what’s the weather is in South America,” he said.
Because of this, farmers need to sell wholesale instead of retail and learn to market themselves directly to customers, Demerly said.
Farmers and ranchers make up 2 percent of the working population, and in Indiana, there are 60,000 family farms that produce 30 different types of food and vegetation.
He defined agriculture as the cultivation of plants, animals, fungi and other life forms.
Agriculture makes up 20 percent of the state’s workforce, about 475,000 people.
Indiana is number one in the country for commercial duck production, wood office furniture and kitchen cabinet manufacturing, according to slides Demerly showed.
It’s second in popcorn production, ice cream production, “egg layers inventory” and cropland planted with a cover crop.
It’s third for eggs produced, as well as for spearmint and tomatoes for processing, and it’s fourth in peppermint, soybeans and turkeys raised.
The state is only fifth for corn production, hogs and watermelon, according to Demerly.
He also said that 30 percent of farms in the country are managed or operated by women.