From the early 19th century, Alabama’s economy was dominated by one crop—cotton. After 1915, however, the boll weevil, a beetle that infests cotton plants, so damaged the state’s cotton crop that farmers began to concentrate on raising livestock and crops other than cotton. Manufacturing began to be important to Alabama with the growth of the iron and steel industry during the early 20th century. Beginning in the 1930s low-cost power provided by the Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA), a federal agency, encouraged industrial development. In the late 1990s manufacturing remained the dominant economic sector. Also significantly contributing to Alabama’s gross product were the government and service sectors. Alabama had a work force of 2,054,000 in 2008. The largest share of the jobs—33 percent—was in the service occupations, such as computer programming or catering. Another 18 percent of the workers were employed in wholesale or retail trade; 18 percent in manufacturing; 19 percent in federal, state, or local government, including those in the military; 6 percent in construction; 20 percent in transportation or public utilities; 16 percent in finance, insurance, or real estate; 2 percent in farming (including agricultural services), forestry, or fishing; and just 0.6 percent in mining. In 2007, 10 percent of Alabama’s workers were unionized.
In 2008 there were 48,500 farms in Alabama. Of those 36 percent had annual sales of more than $10,000; many of the rest were sidelines for operators who held other jobs. Farmland occupied 3.6 million hectares (9 million acres), of which 35 percent was cropland. Most of the remainder was pasture, although farmers kept some of their land as woodlots. The sale of livestock and livestock products accounted for 81 percent of the income generated on farms in 2006, with sales of crops accounting for the remainder.
Alabama’s livestock and animal products include chickens, particularly broilers (young chickens used for food); beef cattle; eggs; hogs; and milk. The state’s chief crops are greenhouse and nursery products, peanuts, and cotton. Other crops raised in the state include hay, soybeans, corn, wheat, potatoes, oats, and sorghum. Some tobacco is grown, which is used in the manufacture of cigars.
The Tennessee River valley is the major cotton-growing area in the state, although soybeans, cattle, and winter-sown grains are also raised there. When fertilized, the sandy loams of the Cumberland Plateau yield good crops of cotton and corn; poultry and other livestock are an important source of income for farmers there. Peach, pear, and apple orchards dot the slopes of the Ridge and Valley province, and forests thrive on the Piedmont. Beef and dairy cattle graze on the lush grasslands that now cover the Black Belt, once a major cotton-growing area. In the southeast the most striking result of the cotton-boll weevil infestation during the first quarter of the 20th century was the shift from cotton growing to the cultivation of peanuts, soybeans, and corn. The farmers later introduced hogs to root over the peanut fields after harvesting. They also introduced cattle and chickens. In the southwest fruit and vegetables are cultivated.
The total income from fishing is relatively small in Alabama, just $48 million in 2007. However, the coastal waters yield quantities of shrimps, oysters, crabs, pompano, mullet, snapper, and many other sea fishes. Fishing vessels take their catch to Mobile and to other Alabama ports to be processed in local canneries or to be shipped to markets that are located farther away.
Lumbering has been carried on in Alabama since about 1830, but until the 20th century no effort was made to plan for a continued yield through selective cutting and reforestation. After 1930 the production of wood products expanded rapidly, and pine forests now supply the greater part of Alabama’s lumber, as well as valuable quantities of turpentine, tar, and rosin.
Even scrub timber, once regarded as useless, is in demand for wood pulp, and many farmers sell such pulpwood to supplement their income. Tree farming is an important activity in Alabama. Fast-growing species, including several varieties of pine, are raised as crops and are harvested when mature, usually within five or seven years after being planted. With careful management even small tracts of woodland can provide a steady source of income for their owners. "USA" © Emmanuel BUCHOT, Encarta, Wikipedia
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