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FL - Background Facts & Sources for S 1900


Click below for a copy that includes the Talking Points:


Direct Sales Facts

Table 2 - Market Value of Agricultural Products Sold Including Landlord’s Share and Direct Sales:  2007 and 2002 [, see A

Farm Characteristics 

92% of Florida’s farms are family-owned farms (either through sole proprietorship or as a family corporation).

In the ten years between 1997 and 2007 1,428,207 acres of farmland have disappeared. Between 1978 and 2007 3,784,718 acres of farmland disappeared, more than half of that, or 1,428,207 acres disappeared in the last 10 years.

Large farm tracts are disappearing and smaller farm tracts are increasing, all with the overall effect of total loss in farmland. In 1978 there were 5,912 farms that were 1-9 acres in size. In 2007 there are more than double that number - 12,184 farms from 1-9 acres in size. The same trend holds for all size farms. The overall number of farms is decreasing and the size of each farm is also decreasing. 

The average age of Florida farmers in 2007 was just over 58 years of age and only 44% of those farmers didn’t have off-farm jobs. Most farmers have off-farm jobs because their farming efforts don’t provide the income they need to live comfortably – 56% of farmers work two jobs – the farm and another one to generate income or benefits. 65.4% of farms earn less than $10,000 a year from their farming efforts. 

Florida State Fact Sheet - View as PDF (.pdf) or as Excel file (.xls)  [Source:]

Table 1 - Historical Highlights:  2007 and Earlier Census Years [Source:, see B

As Florida’s second largest state industry, agriculture has an economic impact of $62 billion annually.

Source: or view“Our Mission” as PDF, The Office of Agricultural Law Enforcement, Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services (FDACS)

Net farm income is dropping: from $1,996,652 in 2007 to $1,740,832 in 2008. [Source: see “Florida State Fact Sheet” above] 

Fiscal Stability for Local Governments

New development requires services such as schools, roads and fire/police protection, whereas privately owned and managed agricultural land requires very few services.

Cost of Community Services (COCS) studies published by American Farmland Trust show that “nationwide, farm, forest and open lands more than pay for the municipal services they require, while taxes on residential uses, on average, fail to cover costs.”  [Source:, see C]

According to Cost of Community Services (COCS) studies published November 2002 (and August 2007) [see C1 & C2]:

SUMMARY: Median cost for every dollar of revenue raised (taxes collected) per each kind of land use to provide public services

  • Working/open land use — pays a dollar, takes 36 cents ($0.37) in public services.
  • Residential land use – pays a dollar, takes $1.16 ($1.19) in public services
  • Commercial/Industrial land use – pays a dollar, takes 27 cents ($0.29) in public services

If the 700,000 acres in farmland lost between 1996 and 2005 went into residential use, AND each acre was taxed just $1, then we’ve lost $56,000,000 by paying out more services to residential use land and not having the “slush” of 64 cents in taxes that the open use land paid, but didn’t use in public services – a total of 80 cents for each tax dollar.

Struggling communities need to preserve farmland, not encourage its development to residential use.

Local Economic Impact

“Buying local keeps money in the local community and helps farms and ranches remain economically viable” [C3]. For every dollar spent with a local company (or farmer), 45 cents stays in the community. For every dollar spent with a corporate chain, only 15 cents is reinvested in the local community [D].

Sources: “The Local Multiplier Effect“, Yes Magazineoriginally posted 16 November 2006 [see D] - View PDF of chart 

 American Farmland Trust - Local Farms and Food[, see C3]

Environmental Impact

Local food can also help the environment by reducing your meal’s “food miles” (the distance it travels to reach your plate) and the energy consumed in getting there [C3]. Produce from a super market travels 92 times farther than locally-grown produce [D]. 

Sources: “The Local Multiplier Effect“, Yes Magazineoriginally posted 16 November 2006 [see D] - View PDF of chart 

 American Farmland Trust - Local Farms and Food[, see C3]

Protection of the Environment

“Farm and ranch lands provide food and cover for wildlife, help control flooding, protect wetlands and watersheds and maintain air quality. They can absorb and filter wastewater and provide groundwater recharge.” [C]

Source:  American Farmland Trust - Farmland Protection [, see C]

Fresh, Healthy Food and Strong Communities

“Farms closest to our cities, and directly in the path of development, produce much of our fresh food–an astounding 91% of our fruit and 78% of our vegetables. And for many Americans, compelling reasons for saving farmland have to do with protecting the quality of life in their communities—scenic and cultural landscapes, farmers’ markets, recreational opportunities, local jobs and community businesses.” [C]

Source:  American Farmland Trust - Farmland Protection [, see C]

Food safety

When there is a long, opaque food supply chain, inspection by third parties (government officials) is necessary. The consumer cannot provide oversight. Most foodborne illness outbreaks (an outbreak is defined as affecting two or more people) happen in large, impersonal food systems.

Global and Local: Food Safety Around the World, written by Caroline Smith DeWaal and Nadine Robert, provides information about food safety around the world. When reading it – remember to watch for the word “estimate” as it is not the “real” numbers, but extrapolations based on the reported or “real” numbers. For instance, the CDC (Center for Disease Control) has two sets of statistics. One for reported foodborne diseases and deaths and another for estimated diseases and deaths caused by foodborne illness. [Source:]  

For example: 

“To better quantify the impact of foodborne diseases on health in the United States, we compiled and analyzed information from multiple surveillance systems and other sources. We estimate that foodborne diseases cause approximately 76 million illnesses, 325,000 hospitalizations, and 5,000 deaths in the United States each year. Known pathogens account for an estimated 14 million illnesses, 60,000 hospitalizations, and 1,800 deaths. Three pathogens, Salmonella, Listeria, and Toxoplasma, are responsible for 1,500 deaths each year, more than 75% of those caused by known pathogens, while unknown agents account for the remaining 62 million illnesses, 265,000 hospitalizations, and 3,200 deaths. Overall, foodborne diseases appear to cause more illnesses but fewer deaths than previously estimated.”

Keep reading the report and you’ll find the math they used to reach these oft-quoted numbers.”  

Source: “Food-Related Illness and Death in the United States,”

As stated in a surveillance report on the MMWR website:

“CDC collects data on foodborne disease outbreaks (FBDOs) from all states and territories through the Foodborne Disease Outbreak Surveillance System (FBDSS). This report summarizes epidemiologic data on FBDOs reported during 2006 (the most recent year for which data have been analyzed). A total of 1,270 FBDOs were reported, resulting in 27,634 cases and 11 deaths.” [E]

Here are the actual numbers – from which they extrapolated the much more alarming numbers. These numbers are hardly ever quoted. 

Further, the CDC produced studies that show death caused by excess weight is 26,000 per year [F].  “By contrast, researchers found that being underweight results in 34,000 deaths per year (Kolata, New York Times, 4/20)” [F].  A CDC report released in March 2004 that found about 400,000 deaths a year were due to obesity [F].  Either way, according to the CDC estimate, obesity causes more death than the estimated death caused by foodborne illness. 

In a short farmer-to-consumer food system the chance of foodborne disease drops – in most cases, the farmer is eating the same food themselves.  Further, if there is a disease problem in the food, the “outbreak” won’t be as widespread as in a centralized food distribution system.  The Florida Food Freedom Act requires all people selling who produce food and sell direct to the consumer to take the Food Safety Manager Class and pass the test.  This course gives basic, sound food handling information that further strengthens the producer’s food safety procedures.   

Remember too, that while important, foodborne illness and/or death is one of the least likely ways Americans die. Far more Americans die as a result of obesity than foodborne illnesses.  Here are some statistics to put it in perspective: 

•2006 - Automobile incidents:

–6.42 million accidents

– about 2.9 million injuries

– 42,642 deaths 

•2006 - Cancer deaths 543,000 (30% lung cancer) 

•2003 - 29,000 deaths related to firearms (non-war related) 

•CDC reported in July 2009 Hospital Acquired Infections rate

– 1.7 million people get sick each year

– 99,000 people die of these infections each year 

•National Weather Service reports

– An average of 300 injuries per year caused by lightning

– An average of 62 deaths each year. 

2006 - CDC reported 1,270 foodborne disease outbreaks

– 27,634 cases of foodborne illness

– 11 deaths


Links to indexed sources 

A. USDA 2007 Census of Agriculture, State of Florida; “Table 2 - Market Value of Agricultural Products Sold Including Landlord’s Share and Direct Sales: 2007 and 2002

Short link -

B. USDA 2007 Census of Agriculture, State of Florida; “Table 1 - Historical Highlights:  2007 and Earlier Census Years

Short link -

C. American Farmland Trust’s “Cost of Community Services” (COCS) studies

C1. COCS study published November 2002

C2. COCS study published August 2007

C3. webpage “Local Farms and Food

D. Yes Magazine post, “The Multiplier Effect

E. “Sureillance for Foodborne Disease Outbreaks–United States, 2006″, MMWR Weekly, 12 June 2009 [58(22);609-615)

F. “CDC Downscales Mortality Risk From Obesity, USA”, Medical News Today, 21 April 2005

G.  Gina Kolata, “Some Extra Heft May Be Helpful, New Study Says”, New York Times, 20 April 2005


Last edited 02/26/10


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