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 / Updated  / Source: CNBC.com

Dire news about drought in the West and avian flu in the Midwest may lead Americans to believe farming is struggling. They'd be wrong. The industry is thriving—and hiring college grads.

A new report finds there's high demand, at least for the foreseeable future, for college graduates with a degree in agricultural programs. An average of nearly 60,000 high-skilled ag and related job openings are expected annually in the United States over the next five years, with only about 35,000 grads in food, ag, renewable resources or the environment graduating each year to fill them, according to data from the U.S. Department of Agriculture and Purdue University.

The study estimates that demand in agriculture and life science-related fields will be strongest for plant scientists, water-resource scientists and engineers, farm animal veterinarians, and precision ag and pest control specialists, among other positions.

"There is a tendency to look at agriculture through a very narrow prism of production agriculture," USDA Secretary Tom Vilsack told CNBC. "It's not just production agriculture now but this is an expanding, entrepreneurial, creative, opportunistic aspect of our economy that I think will continue."

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-- Jeff Daniels