SAN ANTONIO — Strolling along the famous River Walk, the faint smell of tortillas and picante beckons tourists from around the world.
But the roots of those products, not the people who come for them, provide the bigger impact on San Antonio, the state’s third largest city.
Agribusiness — from the farm to the processing and distribution system — generates a $3.84 billion economic impact for the county every year, ranking the industry second, according to a new study sponsored by the AgriFood Education Council. The military in Bexar County is a close first with a $4 billion impact. Tourism and hospitality ranks third at about $2 billion.
That agricultural message, contained in a new publication, “The Impact of Agribusiness In San Antonio/Bexar County,” will be emphasized in coming months as the industry unites to educate the public and key decision makers in the state. The report was published by the Texas AgriFood Masters, a volunteer organization of the Bexar County Extension Service.
“Many people in metropolitan areas are involved directly in the processing, distribution of farm or ranch products,” said Andy Vestal, Bexar County Extension Service agent and member of the AgriFood Education Council. “This report is important because it brings about a new awareness of the effect and economic benefits agriculture has on a city.”
The council, a volunteer organization that stresses partnerships between agriculturists and consumers, defines agribusiness as farm and ranch production plus the “storage, processing and distribution of farm commodities and products made from them.”
Among the highlights from the report:
– About 75,000 people in the county are employed in agribusiness, which accounts for 18 percent of the county’s jobs. They bring home $960 million in annual payroll.
– Agricultural production is practiced on 60 percent of the county’s land acreage.
– Last year, the county’s 2,000 farmers and ranchers produced 14.2 million pounds of beef, 8.2 million pounds of milk and 2.6 million pounds of grain, plus numerous other commodities.
Data for the study were obtained from the U.S. Census Bureau’s “County Business Patterns-1990” and “1992 Agricultural Income” compiled by the Texas Agricultural Extension Service. Not included in the study are data about agricultural occupations in government agencies, financial institutions and the self-employed.
Vestal said the AgriFood Masters considered five components of agribusiness — retail trade, manufacturing, wholesale trade, agricultural services and transportation. These categories include food manufacturing, grocery suppliers and sellers, integrated pest management and warehousing of food products and commodities.
“We often take for granted the enormous economic impact a truckload of produce, grain or other commodity entering our city may have on employment and businesses as it goes through the processing and merchandising sectors,” Vestal said. “But agribusiness touches the lives of all our citizens.”
He said other metropolitan areas should assess the agribusiness impact in their community to ensure that the correct decisions are made in policy matters.
“Policy which affects agricultural production economics directly affects people throughout the processing and distribution sectors and, ultimately, the consumer,” Vestal noted. “Therefore, all aspects of agribusiness, including consumers, need to understand each other.”