While more people are choosing to move to the Sunshine State, let’s consider their impact on Florida’s agriculture

Since the early 1990s, agricultural land has been steadily declining in the nation— and one reason for that decline is development. Recent statistics found by American Farmland Trust and reported in “Farms Under Threat: The State of America’s Farmland,” show 31 million acres of farmland was lost to development between 1992-2012. On the state level, one might read this report and ask what are the effects of Florida population on farming— both in the present and future? Certainly, for Florida’s agriculture industry to thrive, we must ask the question sooner rather than later.

The state’s total population reached more than 20 million in the last census. Predictions are the population will reach 26 million by 2030. That means there is going to have to be a lot of land to house these residents. Someone not familiar with why agriculture is important in Florida might not fully grasp the risk to the industry’s future if an extra six million residents do in fact move to Florida in the next 12 years.

 

Here are some Florida agricultural facts the support the industry’s importance:

  • Florida has 47,300 commercial farms and ranches, using a total of 9.45 million acres, according to recent data (2015) provided by the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services.
  • The state ranked seventh in the U.S. for agricultural exports, with over $4 billion of agriculture commodities shipped in 2015.
  • Florida produces 60 percent of the total U.S. value of oranges— that’s $1.17 billion dollars for this commodity alone.
  • Made up of much more than just theme parks, beaches, and wetlands, the state produces over 300 different commodities. Some of the top-producing crops (besides oranges) are fresh market tomatoes, watermelons, grapefruit, and sugarcane, to name a few.
  • There are currently an estimated 2.2 million jobs related to farming in the state.

Can the Increasing Population and Florida’s Agriculture Coexist?

So how can the increasing population and Florida’s agriculture industry coexist? This is where research and technology can come in. Knowing full well that the sustainability of producing Florida agricultural products must be preserved, there are local grassroots organizations (such as the Florida Farm Bureau Federation), institutions, and other stakeholders who are working hard to prepare for the continued population growth. The University of Florida IFAS Extension sees the challenge in feeding billions around the world as an opportunity. In a blog authored by UF/IFAS Jackson County Extension agent Doug Mayo, he puts forth three solutions for this problem:

  1. Improve productivity
  2. Improve farm income
  3. Keep current farms in production

In each point, Mayo makes the case that improving the use of the land we have to maximize harvest output while helping farmers secure the profitability of their agribusiness so they can pass it down to the next generation is key to helping feed the world.

Despite the growing Florida population and the effect it has on agricultural land, our AgAmerica team is here to help Florida growers and ranchers brave through the many challenges of farming and keep it a strong, sustainable industry. Because, after all, everyone has to eat, and the American farmer grows the food to make that happen.