Commissioner’s AgriCorner: Expanding markets for Florida agricultural products

Though the United States grows increasingly dependent on foreign countries for many necessities, we still boast a trade surplus when it comes to agriculture. The U.S. exports $8.2 billion more than we import in agricultural products. In Florida, exports of agricultural products are not only strong, but increasing. Over the past five years, overall exports of Florida agricultural products have increased by $1.2 billion, or 40 percent, in the past five years.

One of the ways in which the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services supports the industry is by expanding markets for Florida agricultural products abroad. Last year, the department’s efforts to promote Fresh From Florida products resulted in an increase of more than $150 million in cash receipts for Florida agricultural products.

The department works to break down trade barriers and capitalize on new opportunities. For example, new free trade agreements with Panama, South Korea, and Columbia will make it easier and cheaper for Florida agricultural producers to export their products to these trading partners. The U.S. Department of Agriculture estimates that U.S. agricultural trade will increase by $2.3 billion in 2012 as a result of these agreements, supporting nearly 20,000 domestic jobs. Taking advantage of this opportunity, the department has established retail partnerships with both South Korea and Columbia to sell Fresh From Florida products in their retail stores.

We also assist Florida businesses in reaching global markets. In January, we hosted growers of nursery products at the European Horticulture Promotion Show in Germany, the largest horticulture show of its kind in the largest market for U.S. nursery products outside of North America. Eleven U.S. companies participated in this trade mission, which resulted in $1.2 million in projected sales. In February, we also hosted an exhibit at one of the premier food trade shows in the Middle East, Gulfood in Dubai. Since the harsh climate and limited water resources force this region to import nearly 90 percent of their food and raw materials, there are many opportunities for Florida’s more than 300 commodities. Twelve U.S. companies participated in this trade mission, which resulted in $17.5 million in projected sales.

Agriculture is the strongest pillar of Florida’s economy, generating $100 billion in economic impact and employing nearly 1 million Floridians. International trade opportunities contribute to the success of this industry; therefore, we must keep barriers low and continue to explore new markets in order to maintain this success.



Adam H. Putnam is commissioner of the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services. Elected to the post in 2010, he previously served in the Florida House of Representatives and the U.S. House of Representatives.

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