A Message for Florida Agriculture: We Will Remain Strong
As my term as Florida’s Commissioner of Agriculture comes to an end, I reflect on the past eight years and all the accomplishments we’ve made working with the agriculture industry, and the challenges we’ve taken head-on and overcome.
“Fresh From Florida” products are sought, bought, and sold around the globe, and our hardworking farmers and ranchers work year-round to provide us with abundant, wholesome food. Florida’s farmers and ranchers have persevered through whatever Mother Nature has thrown their way, from pests and disease to hurricanes.
Florida’s 47,000 farms produce around 300 different commodities enjoyed throughout the Sunshine State and around the globe. It has been an honor to promote them through the “Fresh From Florida” program.
In 2011, we had 42 partnerships with retail chains, and we increased that number by 100% to 84 partnerships. Today, more than 11,000 outlets feature “Fresh From Florida” products. Also, we’ve expanded retail operations from 18 nations and territories in 2010 to 25 in 2018. Overall, Florida agricultural exports have increased from $3.1 billion in 2010 to $4.04 billion in 2017.
We’ve faced invasive pests that had not been seen in decades, and we’ve continued the relentless battle against diseases. When we detected the Oriental fruit fly in Miami-Dade County in 2015, it was all hands on deck to eradicate this pest. By working closely with the agriculture industry, we prevented its spread to other areas of the state and protected Miami-Dade’s agriculture industry. We, along with our federal partners at the USDA and local partners, successfully eradicated it in February 2016.
When Hurricane Irma made landfall in September 2017, its path could not have been more lethal for Florida agriculture. While damages caused by Hurricane Irma totaled more than $2.5 billion, and much-needed relief is still on its way, our agriculture industry has rebuilt and persevered. Florida agriculture is strong.
Unfortunately, we have not yet successfully found the treatment or cure for citrus greening disease. Despite $210 million being invested in research, and the unfailing commitment of the industry, the Legislature, and the department, the answers still elude us. We cannot lose our state’s signature crop and the billions of dollars in economic impact it represents. This fight must go on; and with tenacity, research, and collaboration, the citrus industry will continue to be a vibrant part of our landscape.
It has been an honor and the opportunity of a lifetime to serve as Florida’s Commissioner of Agriculture. As a fifth-generation Floridian, and as a farmer and rancher, I’m proud of the contributions we’ve made together to bolster one of our state’s largest and most important industries. While much work remains, it has been deeply gratifying to be part of such a tremendous effort to serve not only Florida’s agriculture industry, but all Floridians. I thank you, from the bottom of my heart, for the opportunity.