Alabama is one of the most agriculturally diverse states in the US. Its rich climatic and soil conditions make it an ideal environment for numerous crops and livestock production. Alabama’s agriculture consists of a variety of activities, including commodity production, forestry and fisheries, as well as horticulture and animal husbandry. In 2018, over $6.8 billion was spent on Alabama’s agriculture, and the state’s producers provided a raw product valued at over $6.2 billion.
Alabama’s top commodities include poultry, beef, cotton and soybeans. Poultry is the state’s largest agricultural product and is worth an estimated $3.8 billion in 2018, a 7.3% increase over the previous year. Alabama is the nation’s leading producer of broilers, and the second-largest for table eggs. Beef cattle are the second-largest agricultural commodity, with 224,300 head generating $428 million in 2018.
As of 2018, the state’s cotton industry was valued at $854 million, accounting for approximately 13.7% of the state’s total agricultural production same year. This was a 3.9% increase from the previous year. Cotton lint accounts for about 95% of the value of the crop, with seed standing for the rest. Other crops in Alabama include soybeans, hay and corn.
Alabama’s forestry industry is diverse and varied, producing everything from lumber to paper. The state is the seventh-largest producer of lumber in the US and yielded an estimated 5.5 billion board feet of timber in 2018. Paper products are the largest non-forestry wood product in the state, accounting for 34% of all wood products in 2018. Additionally, both Christmas trees and forestry seedlings are grown in Alabama.
Alabama is home to hundreds of freshwater and saltwater fisheries, and the state ranks 11th nationally in farm-raised catfish production. More than 40 species of commercially and recreationally important fish are harvested from the state’s waterways. The total value of the state’s fisheries in 2018 was estimated at $72 million.
Horticulture is also a major contributor to Alabama’s agriculture, accounting for 6.3% of the state’s agricultural production in 2018. Fruits, nuts and nursery crops are the main horticultural products in Alabama and accounted for over $400 million in revenue in 2018. Nurseries and greenhouses led sales with $298 million, followed by hazelnuts at $39 million and fruit production at $37 million.
Finally, Alabama’s animal husbandry is primarily focused on beef and dairy cattle, goats, pigs and sheep. The state is the national leader in the production of a few goat products, such as cashmere, mohair and hide. As of 2018, the total value of the state’s animal husbandry was $366 million.
Alabama is the leading producer of broilers in the US and is second only to Georgia in table eggs, producing an estimated $3.8 billion of poultry products in 2018. Poultry is the largest agricultural commodity in the state, making up over half of all agricultural production in 2018 with over 6.8 billion dollars in expenses and 6.2 billion in the raw value of the product.
Advanced technologies are used in Alabama’s poultry production, from vaccinating chicks to automatically sorting eggs and grading them meticulously according to size and quality. Poultry farmers create a safe environment for birds from the moment they hatch with specialized chicken-raising equipment and specially-designed habitats, utilizing the most health-conscious practices to ensure the safety of the birds and produce.
State of the art technology is implemented in both packing and processing of birds, with Global Food Safety Initiative (GFSI) standards integrated into the daily process in many poultry farms throughout the state. Robotic equipment is used in some facilities, making Alabama poultry production technology the most advanced in the industry.
The most popular poultry products in Alabama include whole chickens and boneless breasts, wings, legs and dark meat. Smoked and pre-marinated poultry products are also popular, as are dry and whole-muscle products for further processing. Alabama is also a leader in egg production, marketing over 2 billion per year.
Alabama produces over 1.5 may bales of cotton per year, making it one of the leading producers in the United States. Cotton is the second most valuable crop in the state, generating $854 million (13.7%) of the total agricultural production in 2018. Alabama’s diverse soils and climates make it well-suited for a diversity of cotton production techniques.
In Alabama’s major cotton producing counties, irrigation is the most popular production practice, followed by reduced tillage, which helps conserve resources. The American Bollworm is the main pest for cotton production in the state, but producers face other challenges as well, such as soil fertility, weeds and plant disease. Alabama producers are trained to use Integrated Pest Management (IPM) methods as well as mechanical and hydraulic row cleaners to help reduce the pest population, protect cotton quality and ensure an efficient and profitable production.
The production of cotton lint accounts for approximately 95 percent of the value of the crop. The cotton lint harvested in Alabama is of the highest quality and is used by many industries in the state and beyond, including the clothing and textile industry. Cotton seed is also used, primarily in the poultry and livestock industry as a source of protein, carbohydrates and fiber.
Cotton producers in the state are highly efficient and resource conscious. Through advances in technology and the use of modern equipment, Alabama produces more cotton using fewer resources and lower input costs. This efficiency allows Alabama to remain competitive and become a leader in U.S. cotton production.
Alabama is the seventh-largest producer of lumber and timber in the nation, ranking just below Oregon. The state produces nearly 5.5 billion board feet of timber every year, with paper products being the largest non-forestry product by value. Alabama also produces Christmas trees, conifer species for reforestation, and other forestry seedlings.
Alabama has over 17 million acres of forest, with over 56% of this forest land classified as commercial forest land. In 2018, the forestry industry produced over $15 million worth of products. About 4 million acres of the forest land are owned by private owners, with family ownership accounting for almost 50% of the total commercial forest lands.
The state has also developed programs, such as the Alabama Cooperative Forestry Assistance Act, designed to increase forest management and utilization. This program allows private landowners to have access to certain technical and financial assistance related to forestry management and use of the land. This program helps to encourage a higher level of awareness, education, and understanding of proper forestry management practices within the state.
Alabama is home to the world-renowned Talladega National Forest, one of the largest national forests in the eastern United States. This national forest is known for its diverse wildlife and plant populations, with over 500 species of plants and animals calling the forest home. There are also numerous opportunities for recreation, from picnicking to hiking, fishing and camping.
Lastly, the South Central Pine Area Technical Committee and the Gulf Coast Forestry Technology Center were created in the 1980s to provide forest landowners and forest product companies with access to technical and financial assistance. The Technical Committee provides technical advice to forest landowners and the Forestry Technology Center provides support for forest science research in the state.
Alabama has over 3.3 million acres of freshwater and saltwater fisheries, ranking 11th in the nation in farm-raised catfish production. Alabama’s many waterways provide ample opportunities for both commercial and recreational fishing. The total value of the state’s fisheries in 2018 was estimated at $72 million.
The most popular freshwater species in Alabama are catfish, bass and crappie. Both striped bass and white bass make their way up the Tennessee and Tombigbee rivers, providing incredible recreational opportunities for fishermen. Blue Ridge Reservoir, Bankhead Lake and Weiss Lake are also popular spots for catching a variety of popular game fish. Saltwater fishing is also popular in the state, primarily for species such as redfish, speckled trout, flounder and drum.
In addition to sport fishing, Alabama’s commercial fisheries are also a significant industry in the state. The most valuable commercial species include shrimp, catfish, softshell turtles and crawfish. On the saltwater side, Alabama lands almost 2 million pounds of shrimp annually, with a dockside value of over $3 million. The state’s deep-water wells are also used as a source of fish for various times of the year.
The state’s fisheries management program includes the administration of hatcheries and facilities for the stocking of fish for public use and for the propagation and conservation of sport fish and game fish. There are nine cold water trout hatcheries across the state that produce around five million fish annually. In addition to these hatcheries, the state also operates three warm water hatcheries that produce around four million fish annually.
The Alabama Department of Conservation and Natural Resources (ADCNR) also plays a major role in aquatic conservation and responsible fisheries management in the state. The ADCNR develops, implements and enforces regulations to protect the state’s aquatic species through a variety of programs, including conservation education and practices. Additionally, the Alabama Fish and Oyster Commission manages the state’s management of oyster reefs in Mobile and Baldwin counties.
Horticulture is an important part of Alabama’s agricultural economy, contributing over $400 million in 2018, and accounting for 6.3 percent of the state’s total agricultural production. Fruits, nuts, and nursery products are the main horticultural products in Alabama, and nurseries and greenhouses lead the sector with $298 million in sales.
Fruits such as peaches, plums, apples, pears, muscadines, and blueberries are grown in Alabama’s numerous orchards. Nuts such as pecans, hazelnuts, and almonds are also popular, as are vegetables such as tomatoes, beans, and sweet corn. Alabama also produces many ornamental flowers for the nursery and greenhouse industries, including bedding plants, perennials, and cut flowers.
In order to ensure the highest quality products, Alabama growers use the best management practices in the production of all horticultural products. These practices include pest and disease management, water management, and nutrient management. Additionally, many horticultural establishments use automated harvesting and packing equipment, as well as field scanning technology.
Horticultural establishments use irrigation technology to complement their natural rain water. Some growers use drip irrigation, while others employ overhead irrigation or the use of polymer fabrics to conserve moisture and optimize yields. Growers also have access to various resources to help them understand the management and use of horticultural chemicals.
Horticulture also includes fruit and vegetable production for other food businesses, such as wineries, cideries, and breweries. Much of the fruit and vegetables used in these businesses is sourced from local horticultural producers. This helps support the local horticulture industry, while providing fresh and local ingredients for these businesses.
Animal husbandry is an important part of Alabama’s agricultural economy, contributing $366 million in 2018 and accounting for 5.7 percent of the state’s total agricultural production. Alabama is one of the top producers of goat products in the nation, including cashmere, mohair, and hide. The state also produces beef and dairy cattle, goats, pigs, and sheep.
Beef and dairy cattle are the most widely kept large livestock in Alabama, with dairy cattle accounting for 19.5 percent of all farms with livestock. The state’s beef cattle operations have a great deal of flexibility, ranging from small, hobby farms to larger operations with hundreds of head of cattle. Most beef cattle are kept primarily on grass, while feedlots are also used extensively.