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Agriculture Translates into Jobs in the Inland Northwest

PULLMAN, Wash. — A Washington State University regional economic study has found that agricultural exports outside the region provide more than 35,000 jobs to workers in the 19-county Spokane trade area.

The Spokane trade area includes Spokane, Pend Oreille, Ferry, Stevens, Lincoln, Adams, Whitman, Garfield, Adams and Asotin counties in Washington and Benewah, Bonner, Boundary, Idaho, Kootenai, Latah, Lewis, Nez Perce and Shoshone counties in Idaho.

The study was commissioned and paid for by the  Ag Bureau of the Spokane Area Chamber of Commerce.  It was conducted by Eric Bashore, a WSU graduate student, under the guidance of David Holland, a professor of agricultural economics.  It sorted out the economic ripple effect of agricultural sales outside the region on the region’s economy.

“The study was a direct result of a growing frustration in the agricultural community that  people don’t realize agriculture is still very important to the regional economy,” said Dennis Fiess, director of the Ag and Natural Resources Department of the Spokane Area Chamber of Commerce.

“It is our goal to help everyone understand that in one way or another, whether it is their job or the food and other ag products they consume, they are affected everyday by agriculture.”

“There wouldn’t be any demand for dry cleaners, for example,  if there weren’t any customers for them to serve,” Holland said.  “Industries like agriculture which export goods and services outside the region bring in income and create demand for other goods and services.”

In Spokane County alone, an estimated 14,000 jobs are tied directly or indirectly to agricultural exports, or one out of 15 jobs.  Seventy-six percent of the  total nearly 11,000 are not in agriculture.  That figure includes about 2,600 in wholesale trade, 1,900 in retail trade, 1,200 in health services, 900 in motor freight transportation, 550 in business service and 500 in rental and real estate.

The study found that agricultural exports drive an estimated $864 million worth of income in the Spokane trade area; a little more than $358 million in Spokane County alone.  The figures represent 8 percent of the income generated in the 19-county trade area and 6 percent for Spokane County.

Export sales by basic industries like agriculture are assumed to generate purchases of inputs of goods and labor from other sectors of the economy. In turn, these supplying industries purchase inputs producing ripple effects.  The wages and salaries generated by the affected industries fuel household consumption within the region as well, an induced effect.

“People in agriculture have long maintained that agriculture is important to business in the Spokane area,” Holland said.  “This study provides some evidence to support that contention.”

For the purposes of the study, the definition of agriculture included agricultural production and  food processing. An input-output model of the 1993 economy that allows for measurement of direct economic effects. indirect effects and induced effects when income is spent was employed to generate the impact estimate. 1993 was the most recent year that complete input-output data were available.

Copies of the study can be obtained from the Ag Bureau by written request to P.O. Box 2147, Spokane, WA 99210.

(Note to Editors: You can reach David Holland at (509) 335-2579 and Dennis Fiess at (509) 459-4108 for further information.)

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