FAU and UF Study Impact of Agriculture and Food Industries

The study analyzed the role and importance of agriculture, natural resources, and food industries in Palm Beach County.

Pictured from left to right are Alan W. Hodges, extension scientist in the Food and Resource Economics Department at UF’s Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences; FAU College of Business Dean Daniel Gropper; and Scott W. Barnhart, Ph.D., associate professor of finance and director of FAU's Certified Financial Planner™ Program.


By james-hellegaard | 6/7/2016

Most people who live in Palm Beach County don’t know much about the agricultural gold mine that exists west of U.S. 441. Unlike the eastern side of the county, which is dominated by beaches, residential developments, shopping malls and golf courses, the west side of the county features mile after mile of verdant fields of rich soil, producing a bounty of fruits and vegetables that makes the county the largest agricultural producer in Florida in terms of the value of its products.

“Most of us who are on the East Coast don’t realize the vital importance of the agriculture industry and what’s going on out there,” said Scott W. Barnhart, Ph.D., associate professor of finance and director of the Certified Financial Planner Program at Florida Atlantic University’s College of Business.

Recently, Barnhart worked with Alan W. Hodges, an extension scientist in the Food and Resource Economics Department at the University of Florida’s Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences, on an economic impact study titled “Economic Contributions of Agriculture, Natural Resources and Food Industries in Palm Beach County.” They recently presented the study at the Palm Beach International Agricultural Summit to more than 1,000 attendees at the conference.

The study analyzed the role and importance of agriculture, natural resources, and food industries in Palm Beach County, as well as the importance of the agricultural sector relative to non-agricultural-food sectors within the state of Florida and Palm Beach County. In addition to agriculture and food manufacturing, the analysis includes industries such as mining, forest products manufacturing, food distribution/restaurants and allied inputs and services sectors. The study also considered regional economic multipliers, or “ripple effects” in the local economy, with the widely used IMPLAN economic impact model.

The study found the number of farm operations in Palm Beach County increased 29 percent over a 15-year period, from 1,095 in 1997 to 1,409 in 2012, while the asset values of cropland including buildings increased by 70 percent.

Employment contributions from the county’s agriculture and food industries in 2014 (which include the multiplier effects) were estimated at 158,976 full-time and part-time jobs, accounting for 19 percent of total county employment (849,557). From 2001 to 2014, overall employment contributions in these industries in the County grew by 23 percent. The largest individual industries in terms of employment contributions were:

  • Food & Kindred Products Distribution (97,288 jobs)
  • Agricultural Inputs & Services (22,358 jobs)
  • Crop-Livestock-Forestry-Fisheries Production (15,459 jobs)
  • Food and Kindred Products Manufacturing (11,898 jobs)
  • Mining (4,486 jobs)
  • Forest Product Manufacturing (1,026 jobs).

Total labor income generated in the agriculture-food industry (including wages, salaries, benefits and business owner income) in 2014 was estimated at $6.03 billion, accounting for 14 percent of total income in the county. Total industry output or sales revenue contributions by the agriculture-food industry in the county reached $16.85 billion in 2014, equivalent to approximately 15 percent of total business sales. The value-added or Gross Domestic Product (GDP) generated by the agriculture-food industry amounted to $9.50 billion, accounting for about 14 percent of the county’s GDP in 2014.

Total sales revenue (output) contributions grew by 42 percent from 2001 to 2014, or an average annual rate of 3.3 percent in inflation-adjusted terms. Among individual industries, Food Distribution grew by 60 percent and Agricultural Inputs and Services by 88 percent, while crop-livestock-forestry-fisheries production declined marginally.

“Palm Beach County in particular has a really unique set of natural resources,” Hodges said in presenting the study at the summit. “The Everglades agricultural area is a unique resource in the United States with hundreds of thousands of acres of highly productive organic soils.”  

-FAU-

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