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Florida’s Agricultural and Natural Resources Sector

  • Employment Operations and Records
  • Talent Acquisition and Onboarding
  • Classification & Compensation
  • Employee Relations
  • The state’s warm, sunny climate and abundant rainfall enable producers to grow crops quickly and potentially take them to market sooner than competitors in colder areas. Florida is home to about 47,000 commercial farms, which average 200 acres and collectively account for about 9.5 million acres. In addition, there are about 4.6 million acres of planted timberland in Florida. In calendar year 2016, the most recent year assessed, sales revenues from Florida’s agriculture, natural resources, and food industries totaled $165.5 billion and directly supported 1.7 million full-time and part-time jobs, representing 14.6 percent of total state employment. Regarding agriculture, Florida produces only small amounts of commodity crops such as wheat and soy. Instead, Florida is known as a specialty crop state, producing about 300 crops that come from fields, groves, greenhouses and aquatic sources. Many of these can only be produced in specific geographical areas.

    Citrus remains the state’s signature crop, with a multibillion-dollar economic contribution. In 2017, Florida ranked first among U.S. states for value of production of cut-cultivated greens, fresh-market tomatoes, grapefruit, oranges, cucumbers, snap beans, squash, sugarcane and tropical foliage plants. Florida is also the nation’s second-largest producer of bell peppers, fresh-market sweet corn, fresh-market cabbage, fresh-market vegetables overall, strawberries, watermelons and tangerines. The state is also home to the nation’s second-largest environmental horticulture industry, which in 2015 generated an estimated $10.7 billion in revenues from greenhouse, nursery and floriculture crops. Other noteworthy Florida food industries include beef cattle, dairy products, honey and seafood.

    In addition, Florida produces many non-food commodities associated with natural resources. In 2016, Florida’s forest products industry collected a total of $12.6 billion in revenues, primarily from planted pine. Other natural resource-based state industries include honeybee contract pollination services; natural gas and petroleum extraction for fuels and manufacturing; phosphate mining for fertilizers and detergents; sand, gravel and stone mining for construction; and pumping of potable water for bottling. Although Florida offers ideal growing conditions for many crops, its warm climate is also suitable for numerous pests and pathogens, which pose constant challenges. Some of these organisms are native but many reach Florida from other parts of the world via the state’s robust international trade and tourism activities. Concerns over water quality and availability have prompted many producers to seek ways of increasing the efficiency of their operations, to reduce environmental impact and save money on inputs. Within UF/IFAS, teaching, research and Extension efforts are always guided by the needs of Florida’s agriculture, natural resources, and food industries; its residents and its communities.