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• Federal data shows that agriculture accounted for about 0.7% of Georgia's GDP in 2021. That ranked far down the list of biggest industry sectors in the state.
In a quest for rural votes, candidates running statewide these days seem to be overstating agriculture’s economic role in their states.
During her late surge in the Pennsylvania Senate primary, Republican Kathy Barnette told conservative host Glenn Beck that "agriculture is the No. 1 industry here in Pennsylvania." In reality, agriculture amounted to less than one-half of 1% of Pennsylvania’s economic activity in 2021, leaving it behind more than a dozen other major industry sectors. We rated the statement False.
Not long after, we began looking into statements in advance of the May 24 Georgia primary. We found a May 13 interview that Gary Black, a GOP Senate candidate, gave to WLBB, a local media outlet in Carrollton, west of Atlanta. (Black trails Herschel Walker, the former football star, by a wide margin, according to polls.)
A few minutes into the interview, Black said, "Agriculture is still somewhere in the neighborhood of a $74 billion, $75 billion enterprise in the state of Georgia. It’s still the No. 1 sector of the economy."
However, as is the case in Pennsylvania, agriculture accounts for only a small sliver of Georgia’s economy. And Black should know this: He’s the state’s sitting agriculture secretary, capping four decades of farming experience, plus top positions with the Georgia Farm Bureau and the Georgia Agribusiness Council.
According to official data from the federal Bureau of Economic Analysis, agriculture accounts for about 0.7% of Georgia's gross domestic product.
The No. 1 industry sector in Georgia in 2021 was finance, insurance, and real estate, at more than 25%. That was followed by professional and business services (more than 14%); manufacturing (more than 10%); and information services (almost 9%).
Way down the list — below utilities and even miscellaneous — was agriculture, at less than 1% of Georgia’s total economic output.
In 2021, Georgia agriculture was a $4.6 billion industry, so collectively, it’s not peanuts. (Georgia ranks No. 1 in the nation in peanut production, and it also leads the nation in producing pecans and broilers, the official name for chickens.) Overall, Georgia ranks 17th among the 50 states in total farm receipts, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture.
Still, in the context of a $606 billion state economy, agriculture simply isn’t the state’s No. 1 industry as measured by dollars and cents.
A final note: When Black mentioned agriculture being perhaps a $75 billion enterprise in Georgia, he may have been including agriculture’s secondary and tertiary economic impacts on sectors like support services, trucking, and storage, which is a common way to describe a given industry’s total impact on the economy.
Those secondary and tertiary impacts would have been classified under other sectors in the Bureau of Economic Analysis data.
Neither Black’s campaign nor the state agriculture department responded to inquiries for this article.
Black said that agriculture "is still the No. 1 sector of the economy" in Georgia.
In reality, federal data for 2021 shows that agriculture accounted for about 0.7% of Georgia's GDP, which was far down the list of biggest industry sectors in the state.
We rate the statement False.
Gary Black, interview with WLBB, May 13, 2022
Bureau of Economic Analysis, interactive data, accessed May 19, 2022
U.S. Department of Agriculture, "Cash receipts by commodity state ranking," accessed May 18, 2022
Atlanta Journal-Constitution, "AJC poll: Kemp has strong shot to knock out Perdue without a runoff," April 26, 2022
PolitiFact, "Kathy Barnette is wrong that agriculture is Pennsylvania’s No. 1 industry," May 13, 2022
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