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WASHINGTON -- A new study shows that the economic and employment contribution of the produce and floral industries amounts to $554 billion annually - a number that is likely to boost the industry's influence among decision-makers on Capitol Hill and across state capitals.

The Produce Marketing Association commissioned the first-of-its-kind study, titled Economic Reach & Impact of the Fresh Produce and Floral Industry, and was surprised to find that the U.S. fruit, vegetable and mass- market floral industries contribute to every state and every congressional district's economy.

"This is the first study to reach across the value chain to define the full impact of the industry on the U.S. economy, from the farm all the way through retail and foodservice," said Bryan Silbermann, president and chief executive officer of PMA.

Everyone may know about the health benefits of produce, but this report also shows the economic benefits, he said at a Feb. 17 press conference releasing the findings of the more than 500-page report.

"The results show our industry's total impact is 4.23 percent of U.S. gross domestic product and one-third of total U.S. animal and crop production," said Kathy Means, vice president for government relations and public affairs for the association. "We account for 1.9 percent of all U.S. employment, providing the equivalent of 2.7 million full-time positions and nearly $72 billion in wages."

The study, conducted by Battelle and based on 2006 data, found that the produce and floral industries contribute $36 billion in wages and another $35.8 billion in so-called ripple effect contributions, such as employee and supplier spending, for a total of $72 billion.

The farm-to-fork jobs spread across the country as the study included employees working in production, marketing and distribution, retail and foodservice. Production jobs were centered in rural areas, but with links to consumer markets extended to urban areas, the economic footprint of the industry touches every congressional district.

"This was a surprise to us," said Ms. Means.

It breaks down by industry sector thusly: production and sales account for nearly $73 billion and 453,000 full-time equivalents; marketing and distribution account for $227 billion and 320,000 FTEs; retail accounts for $174 billion and 716,000 FTEs; and foodservice accounts for over $80 billion and 1.2 million FTEs.

"The results have significant application to federal, state and local government efforts including lobbying, policymaking and program funding," said Ms. Means.

But the report's findings can be used by companies as well.

"The statistics can be used by groups and individual companies in zoning, tax incentives, loan and grant requests, and business development proposals," said Ms. Means. "Additionally, the employment information can help show the loss or creation of jobs resulting from industry influence."

The massive report breaks down the statistics by state and shows California leading with more than 280,000 FTEs working in the floral and produce industries, nearly 17 percent of the entire industry. Florida, Texas, New York and Pennsylvania round out the top five states in terms of employee and sales output, said the report.

Production jobs alone amount to at least 1,000 FTEs in 49 of the 435 U.S. congressional districts, said Ms. Means.

Besides helping PMA lobby Congress on issues such as the farm bill and nutrition legislation, the report will have tremendous value to state associations, which can use the report to educate state lawmakers on the value of the industry, said Mr. Silbermann.

It is sometimes said that the industry is fragmented and falls under the radar, so this report will be valuable, he added.