GAINESVILLE--- About 1.56 million people worked full- or part-time in agriculture, natural resources and food industries in 2014, an increase of about 40,000 workers from 2013, and nearly 29 percent from 2001, according to a new University of Florida Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences economic report.

 

Direct employment in the agriculture and natural resources sectors accounted for 13.8 percent of all jobs statewide. Employment in these sectors grew from 1.24 million jobs in 2001 to a peak of 1.34 million in 2008 before the recession, then recovered to 1.56 million in 2014, the latest year for which information is available.

 

“I would characterize that as modest growth in the industry, although the growth rate was higher before and after the recession (before 2007 and after 2010), and ag-food fared much better during the recession than many other leading industries such as construction and tourism,” said Alan Hodges, Extension scientist with the UF/IFAS food and resource economics department. “Growth in economic activity of agriculture, natural resources and related food industries continues to contribute to the stability of the state’s economy.”

 

While jobs grew at 2 percent per year, the agricultural inputs and services sectors grew – at a faster rate of 8.2 percent annually. Agriculture, natural resources and their related industries account for $155 billion in sales revenue and contributed $127 billion to state gross domestic product in 2014, the report said.

 

Hodges sees a bigger picture perspective in the latest results.

 

“Agriculture and natural resources industries should be viewed in the context of the broader food and fiber economy in which they operate, because value-added processing/manufacturing and distribution activities are the largest sources of jobs and income and are directly tied to other major industries in the state such as tourism,” he said.

 

Non-food commodity groups such as environmental horticulture and forestry and forest product manufacturing are actually larger than food commodity groups in Florida, he said. Employment reflected that growth.

 

Employment was highest for the food and fiber commodity groups of environmental horticulture, fruit and vegetable farming/processing, forestry and forest products, livestock and dairy farming and animal products manufacturing, according to the report, which can be found at http://bit.ly/2d5xOLe.

 

Economic contributions of ag-food industries are greatest in in Florida’s metropolitan areas because of large-scale manufacturing and distribution to the urban population, he said. But basic agricultural commodity production in rural areas and interior counties is more important, relatively speaking, where it represents more than half of all employment and GDP in some areas.