Special to Harvester – Ag’s economic impact to Florida

– By Jack Payne –

Jack Payne is the University of Florida’s senior vice president for agriculture and natural resources and leader of the Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences.

Those of us who work with Florida agriculture know it is a huge economic engine for the state. What we don’t know is how huge until someone crunches the numbers.

That’s where UF/IFAS comes in. We’ve just done it again. We can now say that the annual economic impact of fruit and vegetable farming and processing is up to $12.24 billion a year.

This segment of Florida agriculture accounts for 95,000 jobs. Put another way, if you all walked off the job tomorrow, we’d need every man, woman and child in Boca Raton to take to the fields, packinghouses, and processing plants – and we’d still be short a few thousand.

Sales are more or less flat from the previous year, but still, only environmental horticulture accounted both for more dollars and for more jobs among Florida commodity groups in 2013, the most recent year for which data was available.

So you’re growing a whole lot more than oranges and tomatoes. You’re growing one of the nation’s largest economies.

Some other highlights from the latest numbers out of our Food & Resource Economics Department:

  • The economic output of all agriculture, natural resources and food services in Florida is up to $148 billion a year.
  • Agricultural and natural resources employment increased by 8.7 percent in 2013.
  • 1.52 million Floridians owe their livelihood to agriculture, natural resources and food industries through full or part-time jobs.
  • With the multiplier effects of the industry’s contributions to the economy, this sector accounts for 2.16 million total jobs. That’s 20.2 percent of total employment in the state.
  • These industries account for $12.5 billion in business taxes to local, state and federal governments.

Economist Dr. Alan Hodges has become the go-to guy for documenting the economics of the agriculture and natural resource business in Florida, and his reports are eagerly anticipated and widely cited. He’s done a county-by-county breakdown on economic impacts, so you can see how important the fruit and vegetable industry is in your community.

His latest report, just published in September, is a good example of how UF/IFAS does more for agriculture than increase yields and kill pests. We run the numbers so growers make good business decisions and policymakers can craft laws and regulations that support a stronger Florida.

We’ve long known about agriculture as an economic engine. However, we at UF/IFAS are never satisfied to just repeat age-old wisdom. We back our statements with scientific evidence.

You can find the executive summary at https://edis.ifas.ufl.edu/fe969 , which has a link to the full report.

Jack Payne is the University of Florida’s senior vice president for agriculture and natural resources and leader of the Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences.

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