By Julie Murphree, Arizona Farm Bureau: Not too long ago, Arizona Farm Bureau’s Joe Sigg said, “Arizona agriculture makes stuff.” He went on to note that all agriculture does this amazing job of “making stuff.”

Unlike any other industry, with the use of our basic elements of a little sunshine, water and soil, agriculture can produce a tremendous about of stuff out of very little. We need agriculture.

The United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) acknowledges this too. According to the USDA, Agriculture and agriculture-related industries contributed $742.6 billion to the U.S. gross domestic product (GDP) in 2011, a 4.8-percent share. The output of America’s farms contributed $138.7 billion of this sum—just under 1 percent of GDP.

The USDA also points out that the overall contribution of the agriculture sector to GDP is larger than this because sectors related to agriculture—forestry, fishing, and related activities; food, beverages, and tobacco products; textiles, apparel, and leather products; food services and drinking places—rely on agricultural inputs in order to contribute additional value to the economy.

Agriculture is about the jobs too

The USDA also has interesting figures on job creation in agriculture. In 2011, over 16 million full- and part-time jobs were related to agriculture—about 9.1 percent of total U.S. employment. Direct on-farm employment provided over 2.6 million of these jobs. Employment in the related industries supported another 13.5 million jobs. Of this number, eating and drinking places accounted for the largest share—10.4 million jobs—and food manufacturing supported 1.5 million jobs. The remaining agriculture-related industries together supported 1.6 million jobs.

In Arizona, agriculture is a $12.4 billion industry. Our top agriculture commodities include beef, dairy, leafy greens, cotton and a variety of other crops.

Yes, agriculture makes stuff. We’ll keep making stuff as long as America supports agriculture.