(Miami-Dade County, FL) -- "I am deeply concerned with the proposed budget's impact on Miami-Dade County's Agriculture industry and the message this sends to the growers and agribusinesses in our community. I am also concerned with the message we are sending to the agriculture industry in the State of Florida which is an agriculture state, as well as nationally and internationally, by completely eliminating all funding to an industry that employs more than 20,000 people and produces more than $2.7 billion in economic impact each year for Miami-Dade County and places our County 39th in the nation for overall agriculture production.
"I understand that we have to identify substantial cuts as a result of the millage rate that was adopted by the Commission this month, but these cut have disproportionately impacted one of the most important economic engines in our community, which is the agri-business industry and the ancillary businesses, which include trucking industry, international shipping industry (seaport and airport), ornamental landscaping industry, home improvement stores, plant nurseries, fruit and produce stands and grocers, etc. The Miami-Dade County Cooperative Extension also leverages funding from the University of Florida's Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences (IFAS) and the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA). The Extension is recognized internationally as an agricultural educational network and agribusiness resource.
"In order to realize the importance of agriculture in our community, you only have to take a look at the success of the Miami International Agriculture and Cattle Show (MIACS), which draws more than 50,000 visitors annually, with thousands of visitors from the State of Florida, Texas, Georgia, Alabama, Tennessee, Arkansas, Louisiana and throughout the United States, as well as visitors from every nation in the Western Hemisphere and as far away as New Zealand, Australia and South Africa. The Miami International Agriculture and Cattle Show has also brought Miami-Dade County positive reviews and free publicity internationally and nationally, with news headlines such as ... 'Miami aims to become an agricultural business center' and 'Miami wishes to devote itself now to agricultural business' in the USA Today.com, MSNBC, CNBC, Forbes, ABC News, CBS News, The Washington Post, San Francisco Chronicle, Chicago Tribune.Com, Star-Telegram.Com (Dallas-Ft. Worth), the International Herald Tribune-the global edition of the New York Times, Yahoo News in Spanish, Yahoo Spain Finances, America On Line (AOL) News in Spanish, Digital Reporter in Spanish, Cotizalia.Com of Spain, The Nation.Com of Paraguay, The Commerce.Com of Ecuador, The Graphic Press.Com of El Salvador, and Panamá News Brief.Com-and even The Journal of Turkish Weekly based in Ankara, Turkey. Every year we are privileged to have the participation of Consuls from all the Central and South American nations that have offices in Miami, as well as Spain, because they all know the importance of the Agri-business to their own national economy and they know that MIACS provides them an opportunity to establish international business contacts and forge business relationships.
"Miami-Dade County has a long history of vegetable production, especially winter tomatoes for export to northern areas. Miami-Dade produces 54% of the state's beans, 55% of the squash and 97% of the sweet potatoes. Miami-Dade produces 70% of the state's okra crop and 99% of the malanga. Over 90% of Miami-Dade's vegetables are exported out of Florida.
"Miami-Dade County is the only place in the continental United States that has the subtropical climate and capability for growing exotic tropical and subtropical fruits. South Florida is the number one producer of mangos, large sized avocados, carambola, lychee, longan, mamey sapote, banana/plantains, sugar apple/atemoya, coconut, sapodilla, jackfruit and passion fruit. There are approximately 13,000 acres of tropical fruits and the industry is worth about $75 million. Avocados, limes, bananas, pineapple, papaya and mangos are now widely consumed by Americans. Consumption of other exotic fruits such as lychee, longan, mamey sapote, carambola, etc. is also on the rise.
"The nursery industry in Miami-Dade County has more than 1,000 certified nurseries growing on 9,000 acres. Ornamentals plants and palm trees are the number one agricultural crop in Miami-Dade County. Bedding plants are marketed throughout the U.S., and foliage plants are marketed throughout the U.S. and abroad. A large number of our palms and other tropicals are exported throughout the nation, as well as Canada and Europe.
"Though aquaculture is a very small segment of agriculture in Miami-Dade County, ornamental aquaculture (water lilies and tropical aquatic plants) has one of the highest values per acre of any commodity grown and exported throughout the world from our community.
"The Port of Miami, the Miami River and Miami International Airport directly benefit from the large volume of agriculture imports from Latin America. Our local agriculture industry is directly impacted by the competition from the plants, flowers, fruits and vegetables that enter our port every day. Our local agriculture industry including citrus fruits and ornamental plant industry have also been impacted by some of the pests and diseases carried on some of the flowers, coffee, plants and fruits that are imported through our Port from outside the United States. A prime example of a direct impact on our local industry by an imported pest is the white fly that has devastated local growers of ficus and other ornamental hedge plants, as well as impacted thousands of homeowners in our community. The Cooperative Extension (IFIS), the Farm Bureau and our Agriculture Manager are the resources that local growers and homeowners turn to for help when they are hit by one of these pests or diseases entering our community through foreign imports. We need to examine the use of revenues generated by the port fees paid by some of the foreign agriculture importers to subsidize the investment that the County and State is making in preserving Miami-Dade County's own agricultural industry.
"I feel strongly that this community well served investing $1.3 million in promoting, protecting and developing the agri-business industry in Miami-Dade County which currently produces 20,000 jobs and has a $2.7 billion dollar economic impact on our community with a limitless potential to grow if Miami-Dade County takes a pro-active leadership role in exploiting its geographic position in the Western Hemisphere, along with our sub-tropical climate. We are uniquely poised to be a major international player in agri-business between Latin America, the Southeastern United States, Europe and beyond. One commodity which is a strength in Latin America and will always be in demand throughout the World is cattle, livestock, grains, fruits and vegetables. Today's agri-business has evolved into a multi-billion dollar, high technology industry with the advent of embryo transfers, artificial insemination and cloning. Miami-Dade County can be in the forefront of developing a hub for this high technology agriculture production and research, as well as a hub for the processing and trans-shipping agriculture from Latin America to Europe, Africa and other destinations throughout the United States. As South Dade and Florida's agri-business industry become major international players, the positive economic impact will benefit our free trade zone, our sea port and our international airport. For all these reasons, we also have to look at the Beacon Council and Tourism Development taxes as potential sources of funding for preserving Miami-Dade County's investment in the Agriculture industry. I think $1.3 million is a small investment for an industry which is vital to our community's economy and vital to preserving employment and creating future employment in high technology agri-business services."