As Florida approaches the 500-year anniversary of the introduction of cattle to her shores in 1521, a new report from the University of Florida Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences (UF/IFAS) demonstrates just how important beef and dairy production have become to the state’s economy – and shows a recent upswing in Florida cattle industry exports.
In 2017, Florida’s combined beef cattle, dairy cattle and allied industries generated revenues totaling $16.80 billion, and supported 118,191 full-time and part-time jobs that represented 1 percent of the state’s total workforce in calendar year 2017, said economist Alan Hodges, lead author of the report and director of the UF/IFAS Economic Impact Analysis Program. These revenue and employment figures account for indirect and induced regional multiplier effects, he said.
The report is available free of charge at https://bit.ly/2NXTMiF. Hodges will present the findings on March 12 in Tallahassee at a meeting of the Florida Cattlemen’s Association, which sponsored the report’s development with assistance from another trade organization, Florida Dairy Farmers.
“We’re excited, because this is the first time our program has captured all of the economic activity related to Florida’s beef and dairy cattle industries side by side in one report,” Hodges said. “This approach makes sense because there is a good bit of overlap between beef and dairy, in terms of the geographic areas where producers are located, production methods, and the supply chains and allied industries involved.”
Perhaps the most noteworthy trend revealed by the report was a steep increase in beef and dairy shipments to other U.S. states and other nations, he said.
In 2007, cash receipts from domestic and international export sales of Florida cattle and calves, beef and dairy products totaled about $465 million. By 2016 the figure had more than doubled, passing the $1 billion mark.
The cattle industry’s geographic footprint is considerable, Hodges said – pastures and grazing lands utilized 5.4 million acres statewide and accounted for 15.6 percent of Florida’s total land area. By maintaining vast tracts of minimally developed land, Florida cattle operations provide wildlife habitat, air and water purification, and other non-marketed ecosystem services, he said. Although the project team did not focus on valuating the ecosystem services that Florida’s cattle operations provide, researchers used secondary sources to develop an estimate of $4.6 billion annually.
“There are programs in place that enable Florida ranchers to earn extra income by allowing the use of their lands for water storage and water-quality enhancement activities,” Hodges noted. “Because this type of arrangement represents a win-win for the public and producers, I think we’ll see more of it in years to come.”
The UF/IFAS report offers a further breakdown of the $16.80 billion industry output figure: Beef cattle ranches were responsible for about $1.36 billion in revenues and 14,720 jobs in 2017, while dairy farms were responsible for $1.16 billion in revenues and 6,288 jobs. Among allied industry sectors, retail sales of beef and dairy products were responsible for $4.74 billion in net revenues and 51,577 jobs, followed by meat processing (14,668 jobs), dairy product manufacturing (12,860 jobs), wholesaling of livestock and products (11,049 jobs), supporting inputs and services (5,804 jobs) and farm capital improvements (1,225 jobs).
These revenue and employment figures take into account indirect and induced regional multiplier effects, which can be visualized as economic “ripples” spreading into the community, caused by the spending and re-spending of funds initially received by individuals directly involved in cattle production and allied industries, eventually reaching businesses further removed from cattle production.
One finding in the report may surprise readers, Hodges said. When the project team ranked Florida counties by the number of cattle-related jobs they supported, the Top 10 list included counties that are considered urban centers. The top counties, in descending order: Miami-Dade (16,825 jobs), Broward (8,700 jobs), Palm Beach (8,000 jobs), Hillsborough (7,248 jobs), Polk (5,859 jobs), Orange (5,746 jobs), Duval (5,060 jobs), Pinellas (4,011 jobs), Okeechobee (2,769 jobs) and Lee (2,698 jobs).
“The presence of urban counties on this list comes about because processing and distribution activities tend to be based in larger cities,” Hodges said. “We looked at all aspects of the beef and dairy supply chains, not just the core activities involved in raising cattle.”
The top five Florida counties for total beef and dairy cow inventory in January 2018 were Okeechobee (110,000 head), Highlands (75,500 head), Polk (60,600 head), Osceola (60,000 head) and Hardee (48,100 head), according to the report. It also states that the top five Florida counties for pastureland acreage in 2012 – the most recent year assessed – were Osceola (373,369 acres), Highlands (301,830 acres), Okeechobee (301,269 acres), Polk (249,944 acres) and DeSoto (201,086 acres).