A key to why agriculture is important to business and society is its output — from producing raw materials to contributing to the global supply chain and economic development.
Providing Raw Materials
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Raw materials are a core building block of the global economy. Without access to raw materials, manufacturers can’t make products. Nonagricultural raw materials include steel, minerals, and coal. However, many raw materials derive from agriculture — from lumber for construction materials to herbs for adding flavor to food. Corn, for example, is used to produce foods and serves as a foundation for ethanol, a type of fuel. Another example is resins: plant products used in various industrial applications, such as adhesives, coatings, and paints used in construction.
Creating a Strong Supply Chain
Importing and exporting goods such as agricultural products requires shipping methods such as ocean freight, rail, and trucking. Delays in shipping agricultural products from a Los Angeles port can create problems in China, and vice versa, impacting the global supply chain.
For example, sales of soybean crops from Iowa skyrocketed in 2021 due to various factors including delays in South American crop shipments, according to the Iowa Soybean Association. In this example, Iowa benefited from a competitive standpoint. However, delays in shipping crops could also be detrimental to regions expecting shipment, limiting availability of products on store shelves and affecting livelihoods.
Encouraging Economic Development
Agriculture impacts global trade because it’s tied to other sectors of the economy, supporting job creation and encouraging economic development. Countries with strong agricultural sectors experience employment growth in other sectors, according to USAID. Countries with agricultural productivity growth and robust agriculture infrastructure also have higher per capita incomes, since producers in these countries innovate through technology and farm management practices to boost agricultural productivity and profitability.