APOPKA, Fla. — Speakers from across the country shared new research and insight — including data about consumer behavior change since the pandemic began, Florida and national policy updates and crop outlooks for some of Florida’s largest commodities. It was all part of last week’s annual UF/IFAS Florida Agricultural Policy Outlook economic conference.
Here, we’ll bring you some highlights of the conference.
State, federal and international ag policy
UF/IFAS fared well with its budget in this year’s legislative session. State dollars that help fund UF/IFAS directly flow down to benefit residents and provide farmers with the research and information they need to face daily challenges.
Looking ahead, the 2023 Farm Bill will be important to watch as well as the dynamics of newly elected officials after the 2022 election cycle.
Experts discussed rising inflation and worldwide supply chain issues. These will be key issues for businesses and policymakers to manage over the next year.
The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s priorities in 2022 include addressing climate change, advancing racial justice equity and opportunity, creating more and better market opportunities and tackling food and nutrition insecurity.
Local Food Trends
Speakers deemed COVID-19 a permanent disruptor to food systems, at least in the United States. Many consumers have shifted to online grocery shopping. COVID-19 might have prompted these changes, but this is likely here to stay.
Additionally, relationship building was critical for farmers throughout the pandemic and will be important going forward. Farms with direct-to-consumer sales had a higher rate of business survival. The biggest barrier to customers buying directly from farmers was simply awareness of where to shop.
Research presented suggests that growers that focus on relationship building and budget for marketing to local consumers pays off in the long run. Online food sales may be here to stay, but direct-to-consumer sales are a huge opportunity for growers, experts said.
Florida Crop Outlooks
Experts shared crop outlooks for horticulture, citrus, vegetables, berries, peanuts and row crops and while each commodity has its own unique challenges one thing was certain – growers must account for changes in consumer buying habits and increased input costs.
Disaster Impact Assessments
Agriculture continues to face uncertainty due to policy priorities within the state and beyond, global supply chain issues, and more. This makes risk management essential for growers which includes knowing the cost of producing their crop, evaluating marketing opportunities and a continued awareness and engagement in policy and legislative decision making.
The full speaker and topic line up with detailed speaker bios is available for more information.
If you missed this year’s conference, be sure to attend next March. When available, information on next year’s conference will be posted here.
–Tory Moore, UF/IFAS