Agriculture’s Value — Too Often Underappreciated

The Last Word: Agriculture's Value -- Too Often Underappreciated

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While it is unfortunate that the Florida agriculture industry has been the unsung, stalwart provider to the state’s economy for too many years — usually going unnoticed as a contributor during prosperous times — it is refreshing to see how today’s financial climate sheds light on the true value agriculture offers our state. Fortunately, in today’s economic uncertainty, high jobless rate, and weak real estate and construction environments, agriculture once again has come to the rescue.

As a group, we have always known that our industry is good business for Florida. Agriculture provides our state with a significant economic engine. A recent UF/IFAS study showed agriculture contributed $86.34 billion to the state’s economy in 2008, and provided more than 420,000 jobs and $2.62 billion in tax revenue. In addition, agriculture contributes alternative, renewable fuel and energy solutions and provides greenspace stewardship and wildlife habitat management.

It is gratifying to know, despite the economic climate, most of our producers are surviving, if not thriving. Many began as family owned and operated businesses and continue to be privately held today. Most have already gone through the sort of economic cycles we’re experiencing now and learned over time how to diversify their operations so they could weather such depressed business climates. Equally significant, most Florida growers and ranchers have stayed ahead of changing business environments through the application of new innovations, business re-investments, adjustments in product mixes and customer bases, and recognition in the value and weight we carry as a collective voice.
As an industry, we have a unique opportunity to offer ongoing and meaningful resolutions to some of the issues of the day such as providing science-based solutions to critical topics like food safety and traceability, engaging in the development of EPA’s numeric nutrient criteria and water quality, and educating politicians and citizens on our virtues and value to the state.

We need to take the lead and continue to defend our livelihoods by joining other allies who recognize our importance. In addition to local grower consortiums, cooperatives, and marketing orders that have been collaboratively utilized, Florida producers enjoy access to many grower-based organizations across the state. These groups do an excellent job of representing our interests locally, at the state level, and in Washington, DC. They provide a strong, shared message when addressing our collective issues.

Although industry advocacy can interrupt us from managing our day-to-day business, the success of our past efforts has thus far allowed us to persevere in the state of Florida, and I believe our continued efforts will be even more valuable to us in the future. So, I invite you to join me in whatever way you can to get involved in advocating for our industry.

Compared to other industries in our state, none have as great a story to tell as we do. Through our collective efforts, Florida agriculture provides healthy food and fiber products that feed our state, this nation, and the world. I believe this state and our industry have a bright future. Let’s make sure our role and value to Florida continues to be made clear to those who benefit from it.