Your Turn: Secretary shares Kansas ag stats

The agriculture industry has historically been a fundamental part of the Kansas economy, so we were surprised and concerned to see the article in the June 28 Journal-World that claimed agriculture was no longer a strong part of the “three-legged stool” of the Kansas economy.

When the author asserted that agriculture is no longer the major player it once was, he supported that statement with incomplete economic statistics. Although one could select a segment of agricultural sectors that will combine for the 4.3 percent he quoted, this falls far short of representing the scope of the entire agriculture industry.

In fact, agriculture, food and food processing comprise 66 sectors with a total direct output of approximately $46.2 billion. Extending beyond the obvious “agriculture” categories like beef cattle and grain farming, these sectors include industries like farm equipment manufacturing, agriculture real estate, landscape services and dairy production and processing. When combined with indirect and induced effects of these sectors, the agriculture industry provides a total economic contribution of approximately $62.8 billion, or roughly 43 percent of the state’s economy. If you include retail food, that number grows to $74 billion and 50 percent of the state’s economy.

So why the difference between these two drastically different numbers? It’s a common misunderstanding, based on the limited definition of agriculture as only the direct sales of crops and livestock. In fact, as many Kansans know, the agriculture industry in our state is a much more vibrant and complex network of processing operations, wholesale businesses, manufacturing plants, and much more. From flour mills to pet food manufacturing, from horticultural services to farmers markets, from farm machinery operations to wineries, from veterinarians to bakeries, agriculture can be seen in every corner of every community across the state of Kansas. All of these agribusinesses are made possible by Kansas’ vast capabilities in production agriculture, with over 28 million acres of cropland, 6.25 million head of cattle, and much more.

And within each of these economic ventures you’ll find Kansans with great jobs; in fact, the agriculture food and food processing industries support 12.5 percent of the entire workforce in the state.

Clearly, agriculture is a critical economic factor in Kansas, and it continues to be a strong leg in the “three-legged stool” which your writer used as an analogy for the state’s economy. That has been true throughout the history of our state, and it will continue to be true in the future as agriculture works to encourage growth of the Kansas economy.

If you would like to know more about the role agriculture plays in the future of Kansas, please contact us at the Kansas Department of Agriculture or take a look at the full economic report on our website at