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Many sectors of the economy have struggled during the COVID-19 pandemic, but one of the sectors that has faced the greatest challenges in the U.S. is also one of the most critical: agriculture. Agriculture is an extremely important part of the US economy and critical to the food supply. North Carolina, while well known for its agriculture, ranks 8th nationally in fruit & vegetable production according to a new study

The early days and weeks of the pandemic were difficult for many agricultural businesses. The shutdowns created major disruptions for some of their primary customers. And much of the foodservice industry shut down overnight in March 2020. These businesses are one of the primary sales markets for farmers. Since then, agriculture has faced many of the same supply chain and labor challenges currently plaguing the rest of the economy. Supply chain breakdowns have meant that farms have been struggling to obtain supplies and equipment. Also, it has become more difficult to transport their products to customers. Labor force participation remains below pre-pandemic levels, especially in low-wage occupations, which has contributed to a shortage of pickers and other agricultural workers. And keep in mind that produce is perishable, so these issues have caused millions of pounds of produce to go to waste.

In recent years, the U.S. has been importing a large share of its fresh and frozen fruits and vegetables, with imports totaling more than $24 billion in 2019. But with ongoing supply chain challenges worldwide, production closer to home will be important in maintaining the supply of food. These fruits and vegetables come from a relatively small number of states where agricultural production is highly concentrated. The leader among these states is California, which is responsible for nearly 70% of U.S. fruit and vegetable production by itself. California is joined by other Western states like Washington, Oregon, and Arizona among the leaders, along with highly agriculture-dependent states in the South and Midwest.

The data used in this analysis is from the USDA. All data shown is for the year 2019, the most recent available covering both fruits and vegetables. To identify the states producing the most fruits and vegetables, researchers at Commodity.com calculated the total production value of both fruit and nut crops as well as vegetable crops, measured in dollars. Researchers also calculated what percentage of total U.S. fruit, nut, and vegetable production is accounted for by each state. Only states with available agricultural data from the USDA were included in the study.

Here are the states producing the most fruits and vegetables:

For more information, a detailed methodology, and complete results, you can find the original report on Commodity.com’s website: https://commodity.com/blog/most-fruits-vegetables/