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As an Agriculture Extension Agent for Texas AgriLife Extension Service I have had an opportunity to be involved in just about every aspect of agriculture. From the 5,000 cow dairy to the types of trees to use in a home landscape I have had a chance to learn how the different parts of an agriculture systems work together. Seedless watermelons, drip irrigation, pecan orchard management, fruit crop development, dairy nutrient management, environmental issues confronting agriculture, producer tours, field days, research projects and more have been a part of my life for over 30 years as I lived and breathed agriculture. Since 2004 I have been actively involved in consulting internationally working in Honduras, Guatemala, Egypt, Jordan, Iraq, India, and China. I have worked with missionaries and other groups dedicated to alleviating poverty among third world farmers. I lived in the Middle East in 2007-2008 working on a project for the Borlaug Institute of International Agriculture at Texas A&M University. In this project I was the Chief of Party and Team Leader for a $5.7 Million dollar effort to train Iraqi Extension agents and specialists in all aspects of agriculture.

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Agriculture is Big Business in Williamson County

There are not many of the 375,000 people who live in Williamson County who think that agriculture makes a very big economic impact. In fact most people think agriculture is fast phasing out and it won’t be long till agriculture will be gone! Well nothing could be further from the truth and in fact agriculture income is on the rise growing faster than just about any other segment in the county. Now it may not be the same agriculture it was 20 years ago but growing nonetheless.
Let’s look at the numbers and see how much it is growing. First production agriculture or crop and livestock agriculture has seen a jump in income owing mainly to higher prices paid for commodities. In 2008 there were 13,000 acres of wheat with an income of $4,563,000, 92,000 acres of corn with an income of $30,379,000, 32,000 acres of hay with an income of $4,000,000, 16,500 acres of sorghum with an income of $5,220,000 and 19,250acres of cotton with an income of $7,000,000 for total crop sales of over $51,000,000There are nearly 200,000 acres of cropland in the county and depending on the year they can make farmers some good money. Livestock is not as big an enterprise as crops but overall livestock producers sell over $12,000,000 in cows and calves every year. All together our traditional agriculture has grown to sales of over $75 million per year!
Now let’s look at another big part of the agriculture industry in this area. Dr. Marco Palma is the Extension Horticulture Marketing Specialist for Texas AgriLife Extension Service and he puts together all the horticulture sales for the state. Recently he compiled a report for the Texas Nursery and Landscape Association on the growth of horticulture sales in Texas with a breakdown by county. If you take a look at the table below you can easily see why horticulture is a big business in this state. Even in this down year horticulture is one area that has seen huge growth as people stay home and garden.
 GROWER LANDSCAPE RETAIL TOTAL
2007 $1,512,784,904 $3,528,713,498 $8,397,293,419 $13,438,791,821 6.91%
2006 $1,496,345,000 $3,317,146,231 $7,696,608,179 $12,510,099,410 3.24%
2005 $1,585,219,000 $2,945,490,188 $7,574,317,424 $12,105,026,612 13.43%
2004 $1,424,295,000 $2,521,156,402 $6,533,642,507 $10,479,093,909 13.01%
2003 $1,324,625,000 $2,198,716,514 $5,592,864,633 $9,116,206,147 9.06%
2002 $1,341,270,000 $2,059,453,093 $4,889,625,927 $8,290,349,020

Environmental horticulture or the green industry includes production of nurseries, greenhouses, sod, herbs, cut‐flowers, retail garden centers and florists, and landscape and tree services. The environmental horticulture industry, often referred to as the “Green Industry” is one of the fastest growing sectors of agriculture in the US. Let’s look at a breakdown of the numbers in 2007 for Texas.
Production/Manufacturing 1,512,784,904
Nursery & Greenhouse 1,313,177,628
Lawn & Garden Equipment Manufacturing 135,890,873
Prefabricated metal buildings (Greenhouses) 63,716,403

Horticultural Services 3,528,713,498
Landscaping Services 3,357,212,338
Landscape Architectural Services 171,501,160

Wholesale & Retail Trade Horticulture Products 8,397,293,419
Flower, Nursery Stock and Florist Supplies Wholesalers 442,554,604
Lawn & Garden Equipment & Supplies Stores 3,036,616,696
Florists 1,002,171,450
Building Material & Supplies Dealers 1,315,941,634
Food & Beverage Stores 302,673,427
General Merchandise Stores 1,588,642,734
Farm & Garden Equipment Wholesalers 708,692,873

Total All Sectors 13,438,791,821

Now the numbers for all the state don’t mean much to us in Williamson County but according to Dr. Palma’s individual county numbers we rank 10th out of all 254 counties in total horticulture sales with a total of $317,995,060. Broken down that is $158,500,000 in wholesale and retail trade and $148,400,000 in horticulture services. The total for all agricultural sales in the county is close to $400 million with horticulture making up a huge portion.
So looking at the numbers a very diverse agriculture industry in Williamson County is by no means fading away but instead is growing every year. The continued urban growth in our area only fuels the growth of this industry insuring a bright and long future for agriculture!!

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