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Wineries booming, tobacco farming waning, study says

November 16, 2017

HARTFORD — Over the last eight years, state winery sales have gone up by more than 120 percent, while tobacco sales have fallen by nearly 40 percent, according to a new study by the UConn College of Agriculture, Health and Natural Resources.

Speaking Wednesday during the 17th annual meeting of the Working Lands Alliance, Rigoberto A. Lopez, director of the university’s Zwick Center for Food and Resource Policy, said the study of agriculture changes between 2007 and 2015 shows strong gains for cattle ranching and farming; vegetable and melon farming; seafood preparation and packing; and milk and butter making.

Losers include commercial trapping and hunting, commercial fishing, logging, cheese manufacturing and animal slaughtering.

But total sales in the farming sector have remained nearly the same, at about $551 million in 2007, and $574 million in 2015.

“One out of six acres in the state is devoted to agriculture,” Lopez told more than 100 people gathered in the Capitol. “When we think about agriculture, it is not just dollars, or market value of the products produced in Connecticut lands, but it also produces a lot of non-market benefits that are beyond that enhance the value of agriculture in the state. In fact, farmers are the unpaid architects of the Connecticut rural landscape.”

The report, focusing on the benefits of agriculture to the state economy, shows that 3.2 million acres under cultivation of one kind or another , amounts to 14 percent of the state’s total area.

“The agricultural industry in Connecticut appears to be restructuring into new market segments where innovation, diversity, and economic viability are key,” says the 31-page study of economic impacts. “This may be a consequence of external factors such as competition from other regions and countries as well as natural shocks like climate change.”

During the same period, aquaculture sales are up nearly 100 percent; horses and horse production is up over 100 percent, as is maple syrup production. Sales of cut Christmas trees are up about 70 percent.

The impact of the agricultural industry in 2015 was between $3.3 billion and $4 billion annually. There are about 21,000 jobs that pay nearly $900 million in wages, as well as social and economic benefits.

The alliance’s annual meeting was a luncheon catered by UConn Dining Services, with cider provided by The Farmer’s Cow.

kdixon@ctpost.com Twitter: @KenDixonCT

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