Farm-Product Raw Materials, NEC

SIC 5159

Companies in this industry

Industry report:

This industry consists of establishments primarily engaged in buying or marketing farm products that are not included in another classification. Some samples of the industry's products are animal hair, bristles, feathers, furs and hides, broom corn, raw cotton, hops, unprocessed or shelled-only nuts, tobacco leaf, raw silk, and bovine semen. Animals including chicks, horses, and mules are also industry products.

Industry Snapshot

According to the U.S. Census Bureau, 717 establishments operated in this industry in 2009. Together these firms employed 5,645 workers who earned a total of $321.65 million in annual payroll. A majority of establishments were small, with 75 percent employing fewer than 20 people.

The U.S. Census Bureau divides this industry into seven categories based on type of establishment: farm animals, which in the late years of the first decade of the 2000s represented approximately 50 percent of the industry; leaf tobacco and tobacco distributors and products (15 percent); feathers, furs, and pelts (9 percent); nuts and nut byproducts (7 percent); cotton (5 percent); wool and silk (2 percent); and other raw farm products, including hops and moss, and not otherwise classified (12 percent).

States with the highest number of establishments were Texas, California, Florida, and North Carolina. Combined, they represented more than 30 percent of the overall market presence. Additionally, Virginia, Maryland, and Mississippi generated almost $4.3 billion in revenues in 2009. By revenue, the top-performing sectors were tobacco leaf and tobacco products, which generated almost $5.9 billion in sales, followed by cotton, with $3.8 billion; nuts and nut byproducts, $2.5 billion; and farm animals (predominately horses), $1.4 billion.

As the U.S. economy struggled to emerge from recession and the war in Iraq in the late years of the first decade of the 2000s, tobacco leaf growers were not as hard hit as some other segments of U.S. industry. However, the segment nonetheless faced its share of challenges. Rick Smith, owner of Independent Leaf Tobacco Company of Wilson, North Carolina, speaking about farmers' ability to contract with tobacco companies for annual tobacco supplies, told Southeast Farm Press, "There is a lot of uncertainty this season. Congress has just legislated an excise tax increase on cigarettes to a dollar a pack. Also, domestic consumption is down, there is a Food and Drug Administration regulation that remains a threat and cigarette production continues to move off shore."

In 2009 the cotton industry was on the fence between recovery from an economic recession and facing a decline in U.S. and global cotton consumption. In mid-2008, world cotton consumption was estimated at 127 million bales; by mid-2009, that number had dropped to 110 million bales. However, cotton prices were holding steady, if not rising slightly, due to a slowly restarting U.S. economy and because China and India continued to purchase new cotton rather than dip into reserves. In 2010, world cotton production was back up to 115 million bales, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

Tobacco growers continued to face three major challenges into the early 2010s, according to Southeast Farm Press in an article published in August 2011: "Three factors--the quality problem for 2010 U.S. burley, the uncertainty caused by the threat of flavoring regulations, and uncertain exchange rates--all contributed to the relatively poor outlook for the tobacco market this year." Other challenges expected for the tobacco wholesaling industry through 2016, according to research firm IBISWorld, included government campaigns against smoking and the trend toward bypassing the wholesaler.

In the early 2010s, the top tobacco leaf distributors included Universal Corp. (UW) of Richmond, Virginia, with 2011 sales of more than $2.5 billion, and Alliance One International, located in Morrisville, North Carolina, with 2011 sales of $2.0 billion. Leading the cotton industry were Dunavant Enterprises Inc., a private company located in Memphis, Tennessee, with annual sales of more than $15 billion in the late 2000s; Plains Cotton Cooperative, located in Lubbock, Texas, with $1.8 billion in 2011 sales; and Calcot Ltd., a cotton cooperative located in Bakersfield, California, with almost $400 million in 2011 sales. Cargill, Inc., a large and highly diversified farming industry firm, was also a leader in the industry.

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