The economic impact of Virginia agriculture is reported to be $55 billion annually, with the industry providing more than 357,000 jobs across the state. For every job within the agricultural and forestry sector, another 1.5 jobs is supported as an indirect economic benefit and impact. The annual economic impact results from $2.9 billion in direct agricultural output; $26 billion in value-added industrial output; and an additional $26 billion generated from other agriculture related business output.
The Chesapeake Bay and the Atlantic Ocean are sometimes overlooked for their significant contribution and value to Virginia’s food system; however, the Chesapeake Bay and access to the Atlantic Ocean add tremendously to the diversity and breadth of Virginia’s food system. According the Virginia Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services, Virginia is the nation’s third largest seafood producer and the largest on America’s Atlantic coast. The annual economic impact of Virginia’s seafood industry is estimated by the Virginia Institute of Marine Science (VIMS) to be over $500 million dollars. Commercially valuable and prominent species include sea scallops, blue crabs, oysters, striped bass, summer flounder, croaker, spot and clams, which Virginia’s watermen harvest from 620,000 acres of water (VDACS, 2011)
Even with this economic output, there are still more growing and emerging economic opportunities for Virginia farmers and food entrepreneurs.The Virginia Farm to Table Plan and Initiative is focused on emerging local and regional food commerce, and building a strong, demographically diverse, profitable and sustainable food and farm sector across Virginia that provides differentiated place-based products for local and regional markets. Within this context, the Plan and Initiative aims to help Virginia farmers gain a competitive advantage for increased leverage and position in local and regional markets, while being conscious that many rural and urban communities struggle to afford and access quality healthful foods.