Alton, IL

Report: Increase in Farm Exports Would Cost Illinois Jobs

Story by WBGZ Radio

With U.S. trade relations making headlines, a division of the U.S. Department of Agriculture says that a boost in farm exports would actually cost Illinois jobs. 

The USDA's Economic Research Service says that a boost in agricultural exports would not only boost farm-related job numbers in rural areas but also create jobs in cities as well. In Illinois, the report shows 1,040 additional jobs created.

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"It's not a massive jobs program but you can see it bumps agri-food employment up by about a half of a percent," ERS Economist Tom Hertz said. 

But a boost in farm-food exports actually would mean a net loss of hundreds of jobs, according to the report. Hertz said this is due to a strengthening of the dollar and the cost of other goods that Illinois exports.

"If foreign demand increases for our products, that's going to tend to push the dollar up," he said. "It's great for the people whose products are in demand, namely farmers and food manufacturers, but it's tough on exporters of other things."

Illinois would be in line for a net loss of nearly 500 jobs from a boost in ag-sector exports. Other states would gain thousands. California would be the big winner, estimated to gain more than 17,000 jobs. The disparity comes from the relative cost and human capital needed to grow local crops, Hertz said.

The job numbers in Illinois' agricultural industry are low compared to other states because staple products like corn and beans are easily farmed with machinery, not a large workforce. USDA estimates Illinois exported $8 billion in agricultural products in 2015.

(Copyright WBGZ Radio /


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