NAMPA (AP) • University of Idaho agricultural economist Garth Taylor says the number of jobs in agriculture has declined, but the demand for highly skilled workers is growing.
Taylor said that farms and food processing companies have become more efficient thanks to technology, allowing them to handle more acreage or product with fewer people. But he says those same companies need more highly skilled workers to keep the technology running.
“Farmers cannot afford to make a mistake, so they hire people to come out and be an agronomist for those farms,” he said.
Food processors are also looking for skilled workers, he said, such as people who know how to operate and maintain an electric sorting machine.
Numbers from Canyon County show that agribusiness makes up 23 percent of the jobs in the county, with the largest employers including Amalgamated Sugar Co., J.R. Simplot Co. and Sorrento Lactalis. Taylor says the region’s advantage is that much of what is grown in the county is processed there, keeping jobs in the county.
The market value of crop and livestock sales was more than $420 million for the county in 2007, according to the 2007 Census of Agriculture.
“Agriculture definitely has an impact on the economic stability in Canyon County,” said Tina Wilson, executive director of the Western Alliance for Economic Development.
Top Air, which manufactures garlic and onion harvesters in Parma, moved into a new facility in January that’s 2.5 times bigger than its previous one. Valley Agronomics opened a new fertilizer plant in Greenleaf in June and Lansing Trade Group recently opened a new grain facility in between the two towns, Wilson said.
Those businesses have invested millions of dollars on new facilities or expansions, she said, and contribute to the tax base that counties and cities draw on for improvements.