Florida - Agriculture



Florida's most important agricultural products, and the ones for which it is most famous, are its citrus fruits. Florida continues to supply the vast majority of orange juice consumed in the US. Florida produced nearly 80% of the nation's oranges and 79% of its grapefruits in 2002. It is also an important producer of other fruits, vegetables, and sugarcane.

The total value of Florida's crops in 2001 exceeded $4.9 billion, 4th highest among the 50 states. Total farm marketings, including livestock marketings and products, exceeded $6.4 billion in 2001 (9th in the US). There were about 44,000 farms covering some 10.2 million acres (4.13 million hectares) in 2002; the total represented nearly 30% of the state's entire land area.

The orange was introduced to Florida by Spanish settlers around 1570. Oranges had become an important commercial crop by the early 1800s, when the grapefruit was introduced. In 1886, orange production for the first time exceeded one million boxes (one box equals 90 lb/41 kg). Much of this production came from groves along the northern Atlantic coast and the St. Johns River, which offered easy access to maritime shipping routes north. The expansion of the railroads and severe freezes in the 1890s encouraged the citrus industry to move farther south. Polk, St. Lucie, Indian River, Hendry, and Hardee counties in central Florida are the largest producers of citrus fruits.

The orange crop totaled 230,000,000 90-lb (41-kg) boxes in the 2001/2002 season. The grapefruit crop was 46,700,000 85-lb (39-kg) boxes; tangerines, 6,600,000 95-lb (43-kg) boxes; and tangelos and temple oranges, 3,700,000 90-lb (41-kg) boxes. There are about 50 processing plants in Florida where citrus fruits are processed into canned or chilled juice, frozen or pasteurized concentrate, or canned fruit sections. Production of frozen concentrate orange juice totaled 235.9 million gallons in 2000. Stock feed made from peel, pulp, and seeds is an important by-product of the citrus-processing industry; annual production is nearly one million tons. Other citrus by-products are citrus molasses, D-limonene, alcohol, wines, preserves, and citrus seed oil.

Florida is the country's 2nd-leading producer of vegetables. Vegetable farming is concentrated in central and southern Florida, especially in the area south of Lake Okeechobee, where drainage of the Everglades left exceptionally rich soil. In 1998, Florida farmers harvested 14,400,000 hundredweight of tomatoes; they sold 9,295,000 hundredweight of potatoes. Florida's tomato and vegetable growers, who had at one time enjoyed a near-monopoly of the US winter vegetable market, began in the 1990s to face increasing competition from Mexican growers, whose lower-priced produce had captured about half the market by 1995. About two-thirds of all farm laborers are hired hands.

Florida's major field crop is sugarcane (mostly grown near Lake Okeechobee), which enjoyed a sizable production increase in the 1960s and 1970s, following the cutoff of imports from Cuba. In 2002, Florida's sugarcane production was 17,606,000 tons. Florida's 2nd-largest field crop is peanuts (197,800,000 lb/ 89,720,000 kg in 2002), followed by cotton, hay, corn, tobacco, soybeans, and wheat. Florida leads the nation in the production of watermelons.



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