Census shows state’s agriculture industries shrinking

The United States Census of Agriculture, which is conducted every five years, shows the amount of land in agricultural use is shrinking while urban development use is growing. The most recent census, conducted in 2017, was released in April.


Nationwide, land in agriculture declined by 14.3 million acres in the five-year period between 2012 and 2017.


In Florida, while the total acreage in farms slightly increased between 2012 and 2017, the state’s land in farms has declined more than 680,000 acres since 2002. In the past five years, there have been some farming shifts from one area of the state to another.


In Florida, the total number of cattle decreased by about 40,000 head in the past five years. Okeechobee County and Highlands County had significant declines in cattle population. In the 2012 census, Florida’s Agricultural Census counted 1,675,323 cattle. In 2017, the bovine population was 1,635,742. The number of cattle ranches in Florida shrank from 711 in 2012 to 670 in 2017.


In the Big Lake area
• Hendry County saw a decrease of more than 8,000 head, with 65,780 cattle in 2012 and 57,367 in 2017.
• Highlands County had a sharp decrease in cattle, counting 122,336 in 2012 compared with 85,875 in 2017, a decrease of more than 36,000 head.
• Okeechobee County also had a significant decrease, with 180,538 cattle on the 2012 census and 133,975 cattle on the 2017 census, a decrease of more than 46,000 cattle.
• Martin County had a small increase, with 28,228 cattle in 2012 and 29,779 in 2017.
• Palm Beach County had a decrease, with 9,333 cattle in 2012 and 7,114 in 2017.
• Glades County added 2,000 cattle in the five-year period, with 63,007 cattle in 2012 and 65,136 on the 2017 census.


Florida’s horse population also dropped in the past five years. According to the census, Florida horse farms were home to 121,034 horses in 2012 and only 90,638 in 2017.


There’s good news for Florida’s pollinators. The state’s honey bee population swelled from 206,654 colonies in 2012 to 241,176 in 2017. The number of beekeepers increased. The pounds of honey sold decreased, but the value increased, In 2012, Florida beekeepers sold 11,145,626 pounds of honey for a value of $18,788,000. In 2017, honey sales for 9,560,381 pounds of honey brought in $22,573,000. Many of the state’s new beekeepers are backyard farmers who do not market honey commercially.


Statewide, the number of acres in sugarcane decreased from 401,491 aces in 2012 to 386,428 acres in 2017.


Around the lake
• Hendry County farmers harvested 79,624 acres of cane in 2012 and 73,022 acres in 2017.
• Glades County farmers harvested 35,807 acres of cane in 2012 and 19,268 in 2017.
• Palm Beach County farmers harvested 285,204 acres of cane in 2012 and 275,442 acres in 2017.


With sugarcane declining south of Lake Okeechobee, two nearby counties added cane farms. The census shows Martin County farmers reported no sugarcane harvested in 2012, and 12,324 acres in 2017. Highlands County also added sugar cane farms. Highlands County reported no sugarcane harvested in 2012 and 6,314 acres in 2017.


Florida’s acreage in vegetable farms increased slightly in the five-year period, growing from 215,481 acres in 2012 to 217,526 acres in 2017.


• Hendry County harvested 9,914 acres of vegetables in 2012 and 11,122 acres of vegetables in 2017.
• Martin County farmers harvested 948 acres of vegetables in 2012 and 2,217 acres in 2017.
• Okeechobee County dropped from 3,698 acres in 2012 to 1,905 acres in 2017.
• Palm Beach County farmers harvested 51,358 acres in 2012 and 50,724 in 2017.
• Glades County, St. Lucie County and Highlands County information was not available.


Florida had a decrease of land in orchards over the five year period. In 2012, there were 579,068 acres in orchards in the state, compared with 502,886 acres in 2017. The Big Lake area lost orchards in the five-year period.

• Glades County had 9,549 acres of orchards in 2012, compared to 6,095 in 2017.
• Hendry County had 100,720 acres of orchards in 2012, compared to 70,733 acres in 2017.
• Highlands County had 46,670 acres in orchards in 2012, compared to 44,114 in 2017.
• Martin County had 23,901 acres in orchards in 2012, compared to 14,958 in 2017.
• Okeechobee County had 6,400 acres in orchards in 2012, compared to 4,946 in 2017.
• Palm Beach County had 1,068 acres in orchards in 2012, compared to 1,497 in 2017, the only area county to expand.

Publisher/Editor Katrina Elsken can be reached at kelsken@newszap.com

You are encouraged to leave relevant comments but engaging in personal attacks, threats, online bullying or commercial spam will not be allowed. All comments should remain within the bounds of fair play and civility. (You can disagree with others courteously, without being disagreeable.) Feel free to express yourself but keep an open mind toward finding value in what others say. To report abuse or spam, click the X in the upper right corner of the comment box.

Facebook Comment