Agribusiness Thrives in Covington County, Alabama
28 Nov 2023
Covington County, Alabama, is a thriving agribusiness hub with a rich agricultural history that significantly contributes to the state's economy. Several vital organizations support this vibrant industry, including the Alabama Department of Agriculture & Industries, the Alabama Agribusiness Council, the Alabama Cooperative Extension Service, the Andalusia Farmers Cooperative, and the Alabama Farmers Federation. Together, they work in harmony to ensure the county's agribusiness sector's prosperity.
Agriculture's Economic Impact
Agriculture has over 70$ billion impact on Alabama, with over 43,000 farms spread across 8.9 million acres. Farms like Fall Creek Farm, CRMK Ranches, Castleberry Farms, Twice Blessed Farm, and Triple B Farms are some farms that thrive in Covington County. Cotton, the state's largest row crop, is grown in 59 of Alabama's 67 counties. Additionally, the green industry in Alabama contributes a staggering $2.9 billion annually to the state's economy, employing around 31,000 Alabamians.
Some exciting snippets include:
• Peaches are the state’s leading commercial fruit, two-thirds grown in Chilton County.
• About half the peanuts produced in the U.S. are grown within a 100-mile radius of Dothan, Alabama.
• One out of every 4.6 jobs in the state is related to agriculture and forestry.
• The queen honeybee is the official state agricultural insect. Bees pollinate 80 percent of flowering crops, one-third of the American diet!
Alabama's agricultural and food product exports exceeded $1 billion in 2022, ranking second in U.S. broiler production and third in U.S. peanut production.
Key Agribusiness Organizations
As per its mission, the Alabama Department of Agriculture & Industries plays a pivotal role in regulating and promoting the agriculture sector within the state. They provide regulatory control over products, business entities, and the movement of goods and services to ensure compliance with state and federal laws. Their efforts also include supporting economic development activities and promoting the consumption of Alabama products domestically and internationally.
The Alabama Agribusiness Council is another crucial player in this thriving agribusiness community. Founded in 1989, the Alabama Agribusiness Council had grown from its founding group of agribusiness leaders to its current status as the umbrella organization for all aspects of agribusiness. Its diverse membership combines agribusiness producers, suppliers, processors, lenders, educators, international trade consultants, small businesses, large corporations, and associations into one voice for Alabama agribusiness.
Sweet Grown Alabama is a non-profit foundation that enhances marketing opportunities for Alabama farmers by connecting retailers and consumers to Alabama-grown foods and other agricultural products.
The Alabama Cooperative Extension System, affiliated with Alabama A&M University and Auburn University, provides vital educational programs to improve the lives and economic well-being of Alabama residents. They reach over 1.4 million people, assisting them with research-based information and resources to boost their agricultural activities. These programs are essential for Covington County's farmers, helping them enhance their productivity and economic sustainability.
The Alabama Farmers Federation, established in 1921, has grown into the state's largest farm organization with more than 340,000 members. This organization serves as the unified voice of Alabama's farming community, advocating for their interests at the state and federal levels. Their influence and collaboration with the agricultural community contribute significantly to the sector's growth and development.
Covington County's Agricultural Diversity
Covington County has a diverse and thriving agribusiness sector, with solid support from various organizations and a dedicated agricultural community. It plays a significant role in the agricultural landscape, with diverse crop production and livestock farming. Additionally, with three farmer cooperatives in Andalusia, Opp, and Florala, the county hosts several farm equipment retail stores, facilitating local farmers' needs. The county's hardworking agricultural workforce has achieved remarkable numbers over the years, contributing significantly to the state's economic well-being.
The J.R. Simplot Company's Expansion
The recent expansion of the J.R. Simplot Company in Opp Industrial Park, Covington County, is a testament to its commitment to supporting the agricultural industry. With an impressive revenue of about $6 billion, the Simplot Company's expansion is expected to bolster the local economy, create jobs, and further enhance the region's agricultural infrastructure. Forbes magazine reports that the company is ranked #71 of the largest privately held and family-owned companies today. J. B. Alderman, Sr., Vice President and Secretary of J.R. Simplot Company, said, “We are pleased to be able to expand our operation in Opp to serve farmers throughout the region better. Thanks to Mayor Bracke and the Covington County Economic Development Commission for working with us to make this happen.”
Rick Clifton, President and CEO of the Covington County Economic Development Commission, was impressed with the process. “It is very encouraging when an existing industry and a community work together for the benefit of both.”, Clifton said. “Most jobs and economic growth come from expansions like this. Not only are we keeping the employees we have, but we will be adding more, and the company is making a significant investment and commitment to the community. It is truly a win-win!”
Future Prospects for Covington County Agribusiness
As the county continues to grow and adapt to the changing agricultural landscape, it remains a beacon of agricultural success in the heart of Alabama. The future looks promising, with ongoing expansions and investments strengthening this vibrant agribusiness community even further.