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Nursery and Floriculture Industries

The United States is the world's foremost producer of and market for nursery and floriculture crops; in the past decade the nursery and floriculture industries have been one of the fastest growing sectors of U.S. agriculture. According to the USDA Economic Research Service, the 2006 (forecast) value of floriculture and nursery sales is $16.4 billion, placing it fifth out of 15 crop categories (excluding the “all other crops” category). The percent change in sales volume from 2005 to 2006 places floriculture and nursery sales in second place (behind cotton) out of the 15 categories. These industries provide entrepreneurial opportunities, supply jobs for tens of thousands of employees, and generate large tax revenues for the government.

A recent study by the Universities of Tennessee and Florida focused on economic factors related to production of plant material plus inputs, including a wide range of inputs (e.g., fertilizer and lawn care equipment) as well as technical and non-technical support for the design, installation, and maintenance of plant material for private and public use. Using university surveys and published data, the study estimated the economic impacts for the U.S. Green Industry in 2002 to be “$147.8 billion in output, 1,964,339 jobs, $95.1 billion in value added, $64.3 billion in labor income, and $6.9 billion in indirect business taxes, with these values expressed in 2004 dollars.” Through their substantial economic effect, these industries are a potent political force.

Extensive research and outreach on the production of ornamental crops have supported the rapid expansion of the nursery and floriculture industries, but U.S. growers now face increasing regional and international competition; greater emphasis is needed on the economic aspects of the production and sale of ornamentals. Important issues include:

  • rising costs of irrigation and other inputs;
  • the effect of environmental regulations, such as chemical run-off;
  • increasing crop specialization resulting from large-scale retailing;
  • stagnant prices, for nursery crops in particular;
  • lack of business and marketing skills among growers;
  • increased capitalization; and
  • shortage of skilled labor.

Land-grant universities across the country have provided economic analyses to the nursery and landscape industries for many years, focusing principally on production costs and marketing data. Most of this work evaluated competitiveness across regions, but a new multistate project with a national focus was established in 2005. Managing and Marketing Environmental Plants for Improved Production, Profitability, and Efficiency is structured to:

  • identify competitive advantages between states, promote best use of resources, and promote regional growth;
  • help growers, plant breeders, and retailers better understand their major consumer groups and identify their key stock preferences; and
  • improve labor productivity within all sectors of the industry.

Research at individual land-grant colleges and universities complement the collaborative work. That research includes surveys on the characteristics and problems in individual states, economic and trade impacts of production regulations, and willingness of consumers to pay for selected products. More info rmation on these projects is available in the Current Research Information Service database on the NIFA Web site.

Results from these projects will help extension staff support local greenhouse, nursery, and landscape businesses by developing effective training materials for their workforce, by promoting financial management tools, and by enabling these operations to better understand local demand for green industry products and services.

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