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Kathy Barnette, a Republican candidate for U.S. Senate in Pennsylvania, speaks with members of the media during in Newtown, Pa., on May 11, 2022. (AP) Kathy Barnette, a Republican candidate for U.S. Senate in Pennsylvania, speaks with members of the media during in Newtown, Pa., on May 11, 2022. (AP)

Kathy Barnette, a Republican candidate for U.S. Senate in Pennsylvania, speaks with members of the media during in Newtown, Pa., on May 11, 2022. (AP)

Louis Jacobson
By Louis Jacobson May 13, 2022

Kathy Barnette is wrong that agriculture is Pennsylvania’s No. 1 industry

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• Agriculture in Pennsylvania accounted for $3.6 billion in economic activity in 2021, but that’s a tiny fraction of the state’s total economic output. 

• Agriculture ranks last among 14 major categories of private industry in the state, accounting for less than one-half of 1% of the state’s economic activity that year.

In the final days of Pennsylvania’s GOP hotly contested Senate primary, a little-known candidate, Kathy Barnette, has risen in the polls, equaling two far better known and far better funded candidates: celebrity surgeon Mehmet Oz and former hedge fund executive Dave McCormick.

In an interview with conservative commentator Glenn Beck just days before the May 17 primary, Barnette said she was concerned about farmers in the state who are grappling with rising costs, as well as the consumers who will have to pay those costs in grocery stores.

During the interview, which was posted to Barnette’s Facebook page on May 12, Barnette sought to put the plight of farmers in the statewide context.

"Agriculture is the No. 1 industry here in Pennsylvania," she said.

But that’s not even close to accurate. Barnette’s campaign did not respond to an inquiry for this article.

We turned to official federal data on Pennsylvania’s gross domestic product for 2021. The data details the gross domestic product for some 14 major industry sectors.

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It said the biggest industry sector in Pennsylvania in 2021 was finance, insurance, and real estate at almost 21%. That was followed by professional and business services (almost 15%); manufacturing (almost 14%); and education, health, and social services (about 13%).

Way down the list — below utilities, energy drilling and mining, and even miscellaneous — is agriculture, at less than half of 1% of Pennsylvania’s total economic output.

 

Agriculture did account for $3.6 billion in Pennsylvania in 2021, so it’s not peanuts. But in the context of a nearly $839 billion economy, agriculture accounts for only a small sliver of all economic activity in Pennsylvania.

Our ruling

Barnette said, "Agriculture is the No. 1 industry here in Pennsylvania."

While agriculture in Pennsylvania accounted for $3.6 billion in economic activity in 2021, that’s a tiny fraction of the state’s total economic output. Agriculture ranks last among 14 major categories of private industry in the state, with less than one-half of 1% of the state’s economic activity that year.

We rate the statement False.

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Kathy Barnette is wrong that agriculture is Pennsylvania’s No. 1 industry

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