Colorado State University Study Reveals Opportunities for Colorado Agriculture

A newly released Colorado State University study reveals linkages that tie Colorado’s agriculture industry together, and provides an opportunity to build bridges between the different commodities and communities that make up Colorado agriculture, including the food, beverage and green industries.

“The Value Chain of Colorado Agriculture” is a joint project funded by CSU’s Office of Engagement and the Colorado Department of Agriculture. The study maps the economic relationships among the various sectors of Colorado’s agricultural industry, which is one of the largest contributors to the state’s economy.

“The value chain analysis is exciting for Colorado’s agricultural industry,” said Colorado Commissioner of Agriculture John Salazar. “We can now base decisions that shape our future on comprehensive information encompassing all of Colorado’s agriculture industries instead of individual commodities. This provides everyone from consumers to producers to policy makers the opportunity to form decisions based on a common starting point.”

Colorado agriculture, which annually contributes at least $40 billion in sales to the state’s economy, is often seen as a collection of separate commodity groups. The value chain study makes connections among the sometimes disparate industries and sectors that nonetheless share common resources, constraints and opportunities.

“Colorado’s agriculture industry is vital to the economic health of Colorado and the way of life cherished by Coloradans,” said CSU President Tony Frank. “Because we all have a shared interest in the viability of Colorado’s agriculture, it is imperative that we have a strong, well-researched understanding of the available resources, challenges and opportunities related to Colorado’s land and water. This value-chain analysis represents Colorado State’s continued effort to help position Colorado agriculture for a sustainable success for years to come.”

Five broad segments were included in the study: agricultural inputs; primary agricultural production; agricultural output marketing, processing and manufacturing; wholesaling; and retailing. In all, more than 125 distinct economic activities, sub-sectors and industries were tied to the value chain.

“This study reveals that our connections to Colorado agriculture are both broad and deep,” said Lou Swanson, vice president for CSU’s Office of Engagement. “The value chain focuses on these interconnections, leading to growth opportunities and innovations in agriculture and other sectors of our economy.”

Results of the value chain can aid with strategic decision-making on issues ranging from workforce to natural resources to regulatory policies. In the end, the study is designed to promote additional conversations that can result in calculated investments and innovative solutions for Colorado agriculture.

“There are only a few regions in the U.S. with a comparable confluence of agriculture, research, technology, and urban resources; bringing together farmers and foodies; bringing together farm sector investors and venture capitalists to enable them to learn from one another,” said Gregory Graff, associate professor in the CSU Department of Agricultural and Resource Economics and the lead author on the study. “This overlap of agriculture on a significant scale and scope and a high-tech urban corridor holds all of the ingredients necessary to spawn an innovation cluster.”

A series of outreach meetings with various agricultural interests around Colorado is being planned. For more information, contact Jim Beers at (970) 491-2332 or

The complete study and related documents (PDF) are available at