Data Sense: Data highlights importance of agriculture in the valley



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 U.S. Department of 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 Routt County were $34 million as of 2007, according to the USDA census. The majority of this income came from small farms. According to the census, 77 percent of the ranches and farms in Routt County are less than 1,000 acres and are considered mid- to small-size operations.

These farms derive their income from many 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 agricultural products sold to individuals increased by 26 percent from $54,000 to $68,000. We expect these numbers to be even higher when the 2012 census figures are released in February.

The census data also reveals that Northwest Colorado leads the state in farm-based recreation income, mainly from hunting and fishing. In Routt County, recreation income jumped from $963,000 to $3.7 million between 2002 and 2007. Routt ranks second in the highest amount of farm-based recreation income in the state at 11.5 percent.

The CSU report and the census data provide us with a look at farm to fork in Colorado and help 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.


Scott Wedel 3 years, 12 months ago

Article makes an argument that Yampa Valley agriculture is important to the local economy without ever mentioning the size of the Yampa Valley economy.

Ag is nice, but if every ag producer decided to stop their ag business and turn their properties into private parks then it would not have that much of an effect on the local economy.

Routt County does about $184 million in accommodations and food service. More than 5 times than the Ag business. Routt County has $421 million in retail sales so if local ag is entirely at local retail then it is sill only 8% of that total.

Misleading articles like this can lead to bad consequences because someone reading this that becomes convinced that Ag is critical to the local economy might then propose rules requiring rural land be kept in ag production. Or maybe think that ag would be the most effective choice for encouraging economic development. Or think that a bad weather year for ag will have a big impact upon the local economy.

This article is an example of how data can be used to create a false impression by hyping the importance of ag numbers without ever mentioning that those numbers are a small part of the local economy.

Ag is nice. I like ag. Ag is popular and provides an economic use for rural land. Factually, it is a small part of the local economy and we cannot wish or distort it into being a bigger part of the local economy.


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