As a Florida grower, you appreciate the challenges that come with the job. Fighting bugs, diseases, weeds, and weather keep you on your toes, especially with our climate here in the Sunshine State. Production challenges are one thing, but you also find yourself facing other obstacles that, in many ways, are beyond your control. Labor uncertainty, markets, rising costs, foreign competition, and water woes all come to mind.
All of the above require you to apply the skills you have honed over the years and deploy new ideas and technology to remain competitive. As we head into 2020, we want to help you in that endeavor. Florida Grower magazine, along with our sister publications American Fruit Grower and American Vegetable Grower, are launching a program we’re calling Opportunity 2020. We’ll be bringing you content focused on real-world, practical steps you can take to navigate through these turbulent dynamics.
And, there are plenty of new things on the horizon to learn about as we roll out Opportunity 2020. Here are just a few:
Hemp: There’s tons of interest, perhaps even hype, around the latest alternative crop on the block. Like everything else, you will have to carefully vet this crop as plantings begin early next year once all the new rules and regulations are put into place and permitting begins. But, with uses from simple fiber to the higher-value CBD market, as alternative crops go, hemp seems to have legs. Florida also has the advantage of being able grow multiple crops in a year, which is an edge states can’t boast.
H-2A Reforms: Florida is one of the leading users of the labor visa program in the country. It has its challenges with typical government red tape and its expense. This year, the Trump administration proposed reforms to the H-2A program to streamline its operation and make it easier for growers to get labor when and where they need it. As they say, “the Devil is in the details.” We shall see, but hopefully this will represent some good news on the labor front in the coming year.
New Tomato Suspension Agreement: Our tomato growers have felt the negative impact of Mexico dumping product into the U.S during Florida’s market window. This has been going on since NAFTA was signed into law. Earlier this year, Mexico and the U.S. agreed to a new suspension agreement, which again halts an investigation that Mexico is dumping products into our markets. To seal the deal, Mexico has made some concessions that seemingly satisfy our tomato growers. Again, the Devil is in the details, and our government must fully fund the new policy to be effective, but it is nice to see some positive movement on that front after years of frustration.
Technological Advancements: This is a big area that is advancing faster than you think. Computing power is growing by leaps and bounds, enabling new breakthroughs in digital farming. It won’t be long before robots will be helping you harvest your crops. Artificial intelligence will help you make more informed decisions about how your crop inputs are applied. All of these should make agriculture more efficient and productive. But, will these technologies make you more profitable?
Profitability: That must be the charge of the entire agricultural industry. That’s what Opportunity 2020 is all about. If you are doing things to make your farm more profitable that might help other growers do the same, I want to hear from you. Comment below or email me directly. We will share your stories, and much more, in the year ahead.