Ag Sector Holds Strong In Central Florida  

Agriculture continues to remain strong in Hillsborough County, even though some sections of the economy are still on shaky ground. The Hillsborough County Agriculture Industry Development Program and the County’s Extension Service have released the agriculture sales and acreage estimates for 2009.

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According to the data, the 2009 sales estimate of Hillsborough County agriculture products is almost $778 million, down 3.1% from 2008, with 243,388 acres devoted to agriculture. Despite the fact that the amount of farmland has decreased 8.3% since 1997, the production value of the land is up 57% because of the increased farming of higher-value-per-acre commodities.

Hillsborough County covers more than 1,000 square miles and 38% of that is used for agricultural production.

Hillsborough ranks as the 4th largest producer of agricultural products in the state, and 59th out of 3,076 counties in the U.S. Hillsborough County has 2,843 farms, the second most of any county in Florida.

Hillsborough County produces the most tropical fish and strawberries of all counties in the state. Strawberries continue to be the highest sales crop at $338,045,400, which is 43.5 percent of the County’s total agricultural sales. Hillsborough produces 90% of the strawberries grown in Florida, and nearly 11% of the strawberries grown in the nation; 14% of Florida’s tomatoes and 5 percent of the tomatoes grown in the U.S.; 85% of the state’s tropical fish.

The next highest sales crops after strawberries are:

* Ornamental plants at second with $144,554,342, accounting for 18.6% of annual sales.
* Vegetable production at third at $138,000,000, with 17.7% of annual sales.
* Aquaculture at fourth with $28,518,750 and 3.7% of annual sales.
* Citrus at fifth with $21,583,789 accounting for 2.8% of annual sales.

These five commodities together generate 86 percent of the agricultural sales in the County, using only 16% of the total land area devoted to agriculture.

According to a 2005 study completed on behalf of the Hillsborough County Agriculture Industry Development program, agriculture production and its related businesses in Hillsborough County generate an economic impact of more than $1.4 billion and employ more than 20,100 people with $293 million in annual earnings.

Local agriculture generates additional local economic impact by supporting related businesses such as banking, real estate, transportation, packaging, equipment, seed, agricultural suppliers and services, and marketing firms.

Source: Hillsborough County news release