Recently the Georgia Department of Labor issued a report titled “Georgia Workforce Trends – An Analysis of Long-term Employment Projections to 2020.” The report breaks down job losses and job gains in several different ways – industry sector, detailed industry, occupational group, and occupation. Basically “industry sector” is defined as a whole industry, “detailed industry” are subsections of an “industry sector,” “occupational group” is how jobs in a industry are lumped together, and “occupation” is the actual job. All of the statistics are from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics; the “industry” statistics are from the North American Industry Classification System (NAICS) and the “occupation” numbers are from the Standard Occupation Classification (SOC) system. The report concludes the total industry sector employment in GA will go by 500,000 workers in 2020, but the sector that ag falls into, Natural Resources, Mining & Logging, will decline by 7,020 jobs. Its hard to understand how this affects ag because the defined industry of Natural Resources, Mining & Logging is very broad. They further broke it down by “detailed industry” and the report shows that crop production will lose 6,140 jobs.
Under “occupations” and “occupational group” the report also gives dire numbers for agriculture. The report lumps farming, fishing, and forestry together for a combined occupational group loss of 4,110. The largest single occupation loss in the report is “farmers, ranchers, & other ag managers” at 4,570. The occupation with the next largest loss is “farmworkers & laborers, crop, nursery, & greenhouse” which has a loss of 2,830 jobs. (maybe fishing and forestry are going up since the group loss is smaller than the ag occupation loss)
GPB picked up on the report and did an interview about it on the “On Second Thought” show. The Georgia ag industry was fortunate to have cotton farmer and GCC Board Member Matt Coley on the show to help explain the numbers. As Mr. Coley points out, there is much more to the ag industry than just producing the crop. Such as the seed, feed, and fertilizer salesmen that supply inputs. There are folks that do nothing but market crops on the backside of the industry. There are scientist in both the public and private sector that develop new ag products. All three of these “occupations” will experience job growth according to the 2020 workforce report, but unfortunately these may not be seen as ag jobs.
The report also states the “the continued decline in crop production” will lead to job losses in the industry. Well I’m not sure what statistics they used to reach that conclusion, but the farm gate and economic impact values of Georgia agriculture continue to climb year after year with the few exceptions of bad years (like the 2011 drought). The economic impact of Georgia ag has definitely grown in the last 10 years and will have to grow by 2020 to support our growing economy.
It seems like this reports shines a negative light on ag innovation. With all the new technologies and innovations in equipment, ag is able to do so much more now with fewer and fewer people actually working on the farm. This usually translates into less farm workers and more farm managers, although this report suggest both occupations will decline. In the GPB interview, Mr. Coley points out these innovations are a good thing, having one man harvest cotton when it used to take 5. For an employment report this may be bad, but as Mr. Coley says it frees up workers to do other things, and thereby increasing the productivity of the farm.
Somehow this report defies all of the other studies done indicating that there will be more openings in the ag industry (or maybe these other reports better define the industry). Here is a USDA study that shows an annual need for 57,900 ag jobs that require a bachelor’s degree or higher. UGA College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences has said on several occasions that the college isn’t producing enough graduates for the industry in Georgia.
Hopefully the GA DOL workforce projections will be wrong. I certainly can’t see how they will be right considering agriculture is the largest industry in the state, employs one out of seven Georgians, and is nearly 10% of the state’s GDP.