The $120 billion misdirection

Gee, it has been a whole year since I wrote about false claims on the economic importance of Florida’s largest water user: agriculture. If this kind of thing bores you, stop reading because this is only an update.

No, agriculture does not contribute $120 billion a year to the Florida economy, even if elected officials make that claim.  That wild overestimate was published recently in the Orlando Sentinel, CNBC, WFSU, the Daytona Beach News-Journal, the Gainesville Sun, and the Space Coast Daily.

In fact, Florida agricultural activities amount to less than 2% of the state’s domestic product. The U.S. Department of Commerce Bureau of Economic Analysis puts it more like $7 billion and 1% of the Florida economy:

Florida domestic product

No amount of economic “multiplier” can turn $7 billion into $120 billion. The mistaken claim that agriculture contributes $120 billion a year comes from ceaseless promotion of a single IFAS report that publishes that number for Agriculture, NATURAL RESOURCES, AND RELATED FOOD INDUSTRIES(!). Most of that is NOT agriculture, as the report itself explains.

The “Natural Resources” part of the report’s total includes birdwatching, golf, etc.  That ain’t agriculture. The “Related Food Industries” part includes grocery stores, pet food stores, restaurants, bars, juice bars, coffee shops, etc. On top of that is landscape services, veterinary services, phosphate and lime rock mining, etc. Look at the underlying numbers, people! Ag is only a small fraction of the total. Truly!

Florida water policy works only when based on facts about both water and related human activities. The $120 billion myth has got to come to an end. On my own authority, I am imposing a $5.00 penalty for the next time that anyone says or writes that claim again. Pay it to your favorite charity.

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