The USDA Census of Agriculture known as the crop report lists Miami-Dade County as first in foliage crop business in Florida. The Census is conducted by the United States Department of Agriculture every five years - the last in 2017.
Census results show decreased sales in Palm Beach County caused it to drop to number 2 in nursery sales. Miami-Dade achieved its ranking with 70,000 acres in production compared to Palm Beach County’s more than 410,000 acres.
“Sales of foliage plants from nurseries are up forty percent,” said County Agricultural Manager Charles LaPradd. “The total 2017 value of crops sold is $837 million making Miami-Dade County second in the state for all crops.”
Crop reports are analyzed over time to reveal agricultural trends. This April 11 information release provides the first overview of 2017 Census data.
“There was a 2760 acre reduction in total farm acreage and 202 fewer farms since 2012,” said LaPradd. “Yet value of sales grew, and this was done with no price supports or subsidies. There hasn’t been time to do national rankings but Florida is clearly number one in state values for the foliage industry.”
LaPradd has served as County Agriculture Manager for thirteen years. He is familiar enough with past crop reports to assess meanings behind the data.
“Miami-Dade is tied for (Florida) vegetable and fruit production,” he said. “But that’s due to decreases in those markets. The main reasons are NAFTA’s impact on vegetable sales and the impact of citrus greening for decreased numbers on the fruit side.” There’s not much in the way of citrus sales in this County he noted but other fruit sales decreases mirror state results.
“The County is fighting a lot of invasive pests,” LaPradd added. He mentioned the laurel wilt disease among avocados and seventeen new pests or diseases coming to the tri-county area probably through the ports.
LaPradd noted the success of the local green bean crop now in its fourth planting in some cases. “We’re the most prolific county in the country for fresh-eating green beans,” he said. “Number one in the state, number two in the country in tonnage. But the low market price has been a blood bath for our farmers.”
“Transportation costs are up,” LaPradd said. “New legislation limits drivers to eleven hours which limits product delivery truck stops. Chemicals to control insect pests are not cheap. It’s interesting the capital-intensive nursery business with its higher expense ratio is number one.”
LaPradd has prepared his report for the County Mayor and County Commissioners on the USDA statistics of a 38.6% increase in County crop sales over 2012.
“Agriculture sales are $2.7 billion, a very large industry for Miami-Dade County,” said LaPradd.
Miami-Dade County is the number one Florida producer of sweet potatoes, avocados, mangoes, bananas, guavas, papayas, non-citrus fruits, and, of course, green beans.