IFAS study shows some Florida economic areas rebounding


In this April 2 file photo, it is the first day of packing fruit at the Island Grove Ag Products farm for the 2013 blueberry season in Island Grove.

Erica Brough/The Gainesville Sun
Published: Thursday, July 18, 2013 at 5:12 p.m.
Last Modified: Thursday, July 18, 2013 at 5:12 p.m.

Florida's farming, mining, forestry, other natural resources and related food industries contributed $104 billion to the state's economy in 2011, or 14.2 percent of the state's gross domestic product, a new study from the University of Florida reported.

That number is up from a 2008 low-point of $800 million, the report said.

The study is the latest from the Food and Resource Economics Department in the Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences at UF. It shows the impact of the agriculture, natural resources and related industries on the state's economy and how it's grown since the 2008 recession began.

The study reflects continued growth in the industries since 2009, after economic activity dipped about 20 percent in 2008, said Alan W. Hodges, a UF/IFAS scientist and co-author of the study.

There was significant job growth in 2011, he said, up 4 percent from the previous year.

“We thought that was noteworthy since unemployment was still high in Florida and that is always of interest to people,” Hodges said.

This is the sixth year the report has been done, Hodges said, and it's become their “signature product for the impact analysis program.”

“Information like this is nice to have on the table together with policy discussions that could impact legislation,” Hodges said. Things like pesticide and labor regulations, supports and subsidies for agriculture, he said, “should all be considered together with the potential economic impacts.”

The analysis used IMPLAN — a computer-based system for regional economic modeling using state and county databases to estimate economic multipliers, the report said. The results here show combined direct and indirect, or “value-added” impacts.

The analysis shows that the industry has improved in key economic yardsticks:

n Employment of 1.96 million workers;

n Wages and benefits of $67.5 billion;

n Business taxes of $11.8 billion to local, state and federal governments.

The largest sector for employment and fiscal impact was in restaurants, bars, and retail food outlets, accounting for 1.2 million jobs and $56.4 billion, or 12 percent of the state's gross domestic product.

All other areas accounted for 800,000 jobs and $47.9 billion, or 8 percent of the state's gross domestic product — fourth in the state after real estate, government and health care.

Direct employment in agriculture and related jobs for 2011 was 1.4 million — roughly the same number of jobs in 2008 right before the recession hit. The number of jobs grew by 9.9 percent since 2001 for an average annual growth rate of just under 1 percent a year.

The state's major metro areas account for the highest economic contributions because of the large demand for food and a workforce to meet that demand, the report said. The eight largest counties in both jobs and GDP were Miami-Dade, Hillsborough, Orange, Palm Beach, Broward, Duval, Polk and Pinellas, the report said.

Agricultural activities tended to contribute more heavily to the economies of rural areas, the report said. In some cases, agriculture represented as much as 80 percent of the total economy.

Another good economic indicator was the growth of foreign and domestic exports of goods and services outside Florida, Hodges said. It was $47.5 billion in 2011. Any product shipped out of state brings money into the state and help stimulate the economy, he said.

“It reflects improving conditions elsewhere in the U.S. economy,” Hodges said. “As people have more disposable income, the demand for Florida agricultural products has increased.”

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