New article on agriculture and water

Florida Trend just put online Cynthia Barnett’s new article about the state’s agricultural economy. She noticed my March 17 post and checked with Alan Hodges. He is the principal author at the University of Florida of an often misrepresented report. Hodges confirmed that the report on agriculture’s economic impacts was subject to “misuse” and added:

But when you consider that our reports are used to gain public resources and political clout, you can see why this is an occupational hazard.

Florida agriculture, as the article notes, is a smaller part of the state’s economy than real estate, tourism, construction, manufacturing, transportation, healthcare, information and financial services, or government. Agriculture simply is not a dominant force in the state’s 21st century economy. The Florida Department of Agriculture should stop claiming that the “agricultural industry” has “an annual overall economic impact estimated at more than $100 billion.” It just ain’t so.

Watering seedling coconuts, Key Biscayne, 1928 (Florida Photographic Archive)

From the perspective of water management, this matters because Florida agriculture is the largest user of water and one of the largest water polluters. This might make sense if agriculture were an economic titan. It looks quite different when one realizes that agriculture’s demands on the state’s water resources are much larger than its economic contributions.

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