New research measuring the impact of America’s game bird farms and hunting preserves reveals that the industry contributes nearly $1.7 billion annually to the U.S. economy.

This figure, along with many others that delve deeper into the industry’s social and economic benefits, comes from the study “Economic Impact of the Gamebird Industry,” which was funded by the National Shooting Sports Foundation for the North American Gamebird Association.

The research was conducted by Southwick Associates, a leading research firm on outdoor recreation and presented by founder Rob Southwick at NAGA’s annual convention in Orlando, Florida.

While actual expenditures by game bird facilities are estimated at just over $634 million, Southwick explained that U.S. Department of Commerce models reveal these dollars actually create a $1.7 billion annual impact when the purchasing power of the recipients of the initial funds are considered. This total impact number is also known as the “multiplier effect,” and provides a better reflection of the industry’s true contribution to the economy.

The study also found that hunting preserves and game bird producers annually account for more than $500 million in wages, supporting nearly 12,000 jobs and contributing $188 million in state, local and federal tax revenues.

NAGA president Fuzzy Stock said the information underscores the industry’s importance, and is especially helpful when producers and preserves are threatened by disease outbreaks in the overall poultry industry, such as last year’s avian flu events, or when attacked by the animal rights lobby that opposes both farming and hunting.

“Quantifying what we mean to the economy is a great help when defending game bird farming to legislators, agriculture officials and the media,” said Stock. “We create important jobs, especially in rural areas which tend to be economically depressed during tough times.”

Indeed, Southwick noted that many game bird producers and preserves are family farms and small businesses that are extremely important to rural communities.

The study also highlighted the increasingly critical role hunting preserves play in supporting the hunting industry and wildlife populations.

“Since 1982 the American Farmland Trust documented the loss of more than 24 million acres of farmland to urban sprawl, which has had a major affect on wildlife habitat and hunting access,” said NAGA executive director Rob Sexton. “Preserves are carefully managed to provide habitat for a variety of wildlife species, and they provide recreational opportunities to Americans who are finding it increasingly difficult to find a place to hunt.”

Many preserves depend heavily on farms and supply chain companies to provide game birds for their operations. Farm-raised birds are also used in the restaurant trade and by state agencies that stock birds for public use.

“The hardworking men and women that make up the game bird industry have long assisted state wildlife agencies in meeting demand during downturns in natural production,” said Kelly Hepler, secretary of the South Dakota Department of Game, Fish and Parks. “The industry is an important partner in keeping the North American model of wildlife conservation moving.”

Ring-necked pheasants are the main driver of the industry, garnering two-thirds of the species hatched by producers, followed by quail, which make up a quarter of the hatch. In all, game bird farms produce millions of birds each year, with top-producing farms raising more than 1 million birds specifically for hunting purposes.

Together, producers and preserve operators are committed to supporting the American economy and rural communities across the U.S. while promoting wildlife conservation and providing quality recreational opportunities for hunters of all ages, from all walks of life.

About the North American Gamebird Association

Founded in 1931, the group’s mission is to protect, promote and sustain a positive environment in which game bird producers and hunting preserve operators can grow their businesses through monitoring and influencing of legislation, informing and educating members on current industry trends and issues, and promoting and sustaining our hunting heritage through increased public awareness.