Amid news of a still sputtering U.S. economic recovery, a recently released report shows the nation’s agbioscience industries are growing, especially in the South.
 
According to a Battelle study, “Impact and Innovation: Agbioscience in the Southern United States,” agriculture, forestry, and fisheries production generates $240 billion in regional economic activity within the Southern region and supports more than 2.2 million jobs with labor income totaling $62 billion. 
 
Agbioscience encompasses a broad continuum of development, production and value-added use of plants and animals for food, health, fuel and industrial applications. The study’s findings shows that agbioscience, its value-chain in production and the downstream industrial activity are vital to the country’s sustainable global and domestic economic future, with the Southern region helping drive that activity.
 
In addition, the downstream processing of agriculture, forestry, and fisheries output into value-added food and industrial products adds an additional $1 trillion in output across the Southern region’s economy, and almost 4.6 million jobs with labor income totaling more than $200 billion.
 
“The current and future importance of the agbiosciences is hard to overstate,” said Simon Tripp, a co-author of the report. “For instance, this science and industry sector is fundamental to the survival of the world’s expanding population, the food security of our nation, and the health of our population.”
 
In Tennessee alone, the value of agricultural and natural resource production was more than $2 billion in 2011 and the industry continues to be a major economic driver for the state.
 
“The Battelle analysis shows that the investment of local, state and federal funds in our research and extension programs produces positive returns and promotes sustainability and growth in Tennessee’s economy,” said Dr. Tim Cross, dean of University of Tennessee Extension.
 
The industry’s tremendous economic impact across the region is due in large part to the modern science and technology innovations from the Land-Grant University Cooperative Extension Service and Agricultural Experiment Station System. The system successfully addresses agriculture’s crucial national and global needs through research and development, practice improvement, skills enhancement, and new technology introduction, dissemination, and adoption, the report shows.
 
"The findings from this study underscore agbioscience's potential in the Southern region, said Saied Mostaghimi, director of Virginia Agricultural Experiment Station and associate dean for research and graduate studies at Virginia Tech, who this year leads the region’s research association.
 
“By utilizing the research and development power of our land-grant universities, we can develop the knowledge and appropriate technologies to further increase agriculture and forestry production for food, fiber and fuel, while improving food safety and nutrition, enhancing environmental stewardship and promoting economic development," he said. 
 
Equally important, the agbiosciences provide a path to future economic growth built upon domestic renewable resources including feedstocks for fuels, fibers and industrial materials, according to the report.
 
In Tennessee, UT’s Center for Renewable Carbon is the lead center in a $15 million award from the USDA that will support the development of sustainable regional bioenergy production systems. The grant, awarded after a highly competitive process, creates the Southeast Partnership for Integrated Biomass Supply Systems. A 48-member team of scientists from UT and several collaborating institutions throughout the South will work to develop sustainable feedstock systems for dedicated energy crops, specifically switchgrass and woody biomass.
 
According to Dr. Bill Brown, dean of UT AgResearch, this is just one example of how the university is working to find unique solutions to meet the needs of a growing population. “The UT AgResearch mission revolves around discovery, innovation, and application. Our scientists are discovering new ways to make food and fiber industries more efficient while sustaining soil, water, air and wildlife resources. Innovation drives these discoveries into new products, processes and procedures, and partnerships with extension, state and federal agencies and private industry apply these innovations to the marketplace. 
 
“Impact and Innovation” notes the Land-grant University Extension Service and Experiment Station System is on the frontline of sustaining and securing U.S. competitiveness in what is, and will continue to be, a sector of core strategic importance for the country.
 
This U.S. system of research and extension provides science and technology development and transformational education that keep Southern Region agriculture, agribusiness, and associated business sectors at the forefront of innovation, productivity and competitiveness. These advancements create and sustain jobs and contribute to a strong regional, national and global economy.
 
“Throughout our hundred-year history, Cooperative Extension has set the pace of change in agriculture, natural resources and rural America. In today’s fast-changing world, we must provide the best decision-making tools and Extension education possible to farmers, ranchers, families and communities,” said Beverly Sparks, associate dean for extension at the University of Georgia and leaders of the region’s extension directors this year. “It is imperative the Southern region be well-prepared to take advantage of the tremendous potential we have before us.”
 
Sustaining the Extension Service and Experiment Station System, further investing in it, and addressing its challenges are keys to maintaining the strength of the economic and social fabric of the nation, the region and the state.
 
“The Southern Region’s Extension Service and Experiment Station System represents a uniquely powerful resource,” said Deborah Cummings, a co-author of the report. “In recognition of this importance, the System is traditionally supported by federal, state, and local governments, and by industry, producers, commodity organizations, and other key stakeholders. This support must not only be sustained, but ideally—given the size and scope of grand domestic and global challenges addressed by the agbiosciences—should be significantly expanded so that the Southern Region can take advantage of the large-scale opportunities presented,” she said.
 
“For more than 100 years, UT Extension and AgResearch have provided research-based information to help Tennessee farmers, families, youth and community leaders solve problems and create solutions,” said Cross. “We are fortunate in Tennessee to have a legislature that appreciates the value of Extension and AgResearch programs and the positive impacts they bring to our communities.”
 
“In our science and technology-based economic development practice at Battelle, we have observed the consistent rise of agbioscience as a core driver of economic growth and business expansion opportunities for the U.S.,” Tripp said. “This is an extremely dynamic sector, leveraging sustainable biobased resources to produce goods that meet large-scale market needs. The Southern Region is a global leader in traditional agricultural economic activity, and can count itself as one of a select few regions in the world that is also leading the charge in emerging areas of the modern bioeconomy.”
 
The full report is available online at: www.LSUAgCenter.com/SouthernAgbioscienceImpact

###

About Southern Region Land-grant Universities' Extension Services and Experiment Stations
The Southern Region Land-grant Universities' Extension Services and Experiment Stations are represented by the Association of Southern Region Extension Directors and the Southern Association of Agricultural Experiment Station Directors, respectively.  The two associations' membership consists of directors, associate directors, and assistant directors (or their equivalents) of the State Cooperative Extension Services and Agricultural Experiment Stations of the Southern Region's 13 states and two territories. They work to facilitate and coordinate multistate activities and are proactive regarding national policy issues related to federal authorizations and appropriations, strategic planning, partnerships, capacity and competitive funding programs, and special initiatives.
 
About Battelle
As the world’s largest independent research and development organization, Battelle provides innovative solutions to the world’s most pressing needs through its four global businesses:  Laboratory management; National Security; Health and Life Sciences; and Energy, Environment and Material Sciences. It advances scientific discovery and application by conducting $6.2 billion in global R&D annually through contract research, laboratory management and technology commercialization.  Headquartered in Columbus, Ohio, Battelle oversees 22,000 employees in more than 130 locations worldwide, including seven national laboratories which Battelle manages or co-manages for the U.S. Department of Energy and the U.S. Department of Homeland Security and a nuclear energy lab in the United Kingdom. Battelle also is one of the nation’s leading charitable trusts focusing on societal and economic impact and actively supporting and promoting science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) education.
 
About the UT Institute of Agriculture
The UT Institute of Agriculture provides instruction, research and public service through the UT College of Agricultural Sciences and Natural Resources, the UT College of Veterinary Medicine, UT AgResearch, including its system of 10 research and education centers, and UT Extension offices in every county in the state.
###
 
Contact:  Doug Edlund, UTIA Marketing and Communications, 865-974-7141, dedlund@utk.edu