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Report shows food processing plays significant role in WI economy

Food processing continues to play a significant role in Wisconsin’s economy according to a report released by the University of Wisconsin-Extension on the Economic Impact of Wisconsin Agriculture.

Based on the 2012 U.S. Department of Agriculture-National Agricultural Statistics Service Agriculture Census, the report states that the food processing industry in Wisconsin contributed 259,600 jobs, $12.9 billion to labor income (wages, salaries and proprietor income), $21.2 billion to total income, and $67.8 billion to industrial sales.

“These findings further evidence the strength of this economic sector and its significance to Wisconsin and the Midwest”, said Nick George, president of the Midwest Food Processors Association (MWFPA).

The UW-Extension’s findings indicate that employment in food processing experienced modest growth over the past few years, partially explained by the modest expansion of smaller scale food processors which tend to be more labor intensive than larger ones. The report also noted that there “is little evidence that the Great Recession had a negative impact on-farm or food processing employment.”

George would not say that food manufacturing is recession proof, “but it does brings a lot of product diversity and economic stability wherever it locates. It does tend to be more stable. People may put off major purchases, or they may cut back on dining out when the economy is slow, but people have to eat, even when the economy is not doing well.”

The report also noted that “wage and salary income from food processing experienced overall growth between 1998 and 2012 within Wisconsin.”

Wisconsin is a major food processor hosting companies possessing national and international name recognition. The industry is strongly tied to the agricultural community. Wisconsin places perennially in the top five in growing and processing such crops as potatoes, sweet corn, peas, snap beans, carrots and cucumbers.

The production of sweet corn for processing is heavily concentrated in the upper Midwest. A report released last year showed that the state’s sweet corn industry produces an annual state economic impact of nearly $130 million when its yearly sweet corn crop is processed.

The UW- Extension report is based on the 2012 U.S. Department of Agriculture-National Agricultural Statistics Service Agriculture Census which showed that agriculture has an $88.3 billion impact on the Wisconsin state economy, up from $59 billion, an increase of 49.3 percent.

“Wisconsin and the Midwest are home to a strong, vibrant food processing industry. This is due in part to the steady, reliable food supply and stable grower base provided by Wisconsin farmers” said George.