Glades economy’s powerhouse is agriculture

PALM BEACH COUNTY — The Glades Region and Palm Beach County overall are faring much better as far as the agricultural economy goes than some other parts of the state.

The numbers improved over the past few years for the Glades and Palm Beach County both and are projected to slip only slightly countywide, by an estimated 1% in the next five or so years, according to county agencies.

Meanwhile, agricultural employment’s trend in the Glades Region is up: Total employment is projected to rise by 4% from 2019 through 2026. By contrast, overall, Palm Beach County is expected to lose 0.9% of its agricultural employment over the same period. Nationwide, a gain of 1.6% is expected over that period.

Asked for a more specific breakdown of the recently released county wide employment numbers to focus in on the situation on the fertile Glades ground, CareerSource’s Vice President for Administration Tom Veenstra emailed two detailed reports generated by Emsi, a labor market analytics company, in reply.

Mr. Veenstra sent “industry snapshot” documents dealing with the numbers from Emsi’s fourth quarter 2019 (4Q2019) data set, from both Palm Beach County overall and then broken down for the Glades Region by the ZIP codes that cover the Glades’ four municipalities: Belle Glade, Canal Point, Pahokee and South Bay.

The numbers show that in PB County, just under 10,000 jobs exist in the agriculture, forestry, fishing and hunting industries (9,849), which is 24% above the national average. Those jobs pay an average of $41,500 per year, over $3,000 shy of the national average. Four hundred forty-three payrolled business locations are documented countywide.

In the Glades cities, however, where about 20 percent of the overall agriculture-related jobs in the county reside, employment is projected to jump to nearly 1,900 total by 2026. As of the fourth quarter 2019, there were 1,806 agriculture jobs based in the four cities. That is roughly 1,800% higher than the national average for such regions, showing how heavily reliant the Glades area’s economy is on these industries.

Also, the agriculture jobs in the Glades pay a whopping average of $45,274, which is almost $500 higher than the national average.

Palm Beach County’s GRP (gross regional product) came to $73.7 billion in 4Q2019. The Glades Region’s GRP for those four ZIP codes totaled $1 billion in 4Q2019. Those numbers describe the output of the agriculture sector only in PBC and in the Glades.

The Glades region’s top businesses by number of employees are: Duda Farm Fresh Foods, 1,232; Osceola Farms Co., 660; Sugar Farms Co-op, 67; New Hope South Corp., 66; and Wedgworth Farms Inc., 30.

Other statistics from Emsi’s “Snapshot” reports that are of interest:

• Most of the Glades’ ag labor force is made up of farmworkers and laborers, on crops, in nurseries and greenhouses (group one), 44%; farmers, ranchers and other ag managers (group two), 9.7%; farmworkers for farms, ranches and aquacultural animals (group three), 4.7%; graders and sorters of agriculture products, 3.7%; and packers and packagers (hand), 3.4%.

• Palm Beach County’s labor force in the same first three categories above are broken down as follows: group one, 42.4%; group two, 11.4%; group three, 6.2%; agricultural workers (all other), 3.4%; and, finally, agricultural equipment operators, 3.2%. Numbers for the other two categories above for the Glades were not broken down for the county by Emsi.

• Countywide, the biggest ag employers are: the top two listed above for the Glades, Duda and Osceola farm companies; then Regents Park Nursing & Rehabilitation Center (support activities for animal production, 332 jobs; Petmed Express Inc., (support activities for animal production), 178 jobs; and Du Bois & Son LLC, 166 jobs.

Chris Felker can be reached at cfelker@newszap.com.

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