Agriculture has a long tradition in Hillsborough County, from cattle introduced by the early Spanish explorers to the strawberry industry in the Plant City area, and the national reputation of Ruskin tomatoes.  Agriculture has historically been Hillsborough County’s largest single industry. Despite the perception that Hillsborough is an urban county, 34 percent of its land area is farmland.

Hillsborough County Agriculture Production Statistics

In 1995 the Hillsborough County Farm Bureau, in cooperation with several other organizations, took part in the Hillsborough County Agriculture Task Force, a county-appointed agricultural advisory board.  The charge given to this group was to first determine the current state of agriculture in Hillsborough County and then make recommendations to improve the industry’s economic sustainability.  To demonstrate the current state of the industry, the Task Force commissioned an economic impact study.  That study revealed that agriculture had an economic impact of $1.5 billion per year on the county, provided a tax surplus to the county and that the opportunity cost of agriculture could compete very well with development.

Based on the revelations that came out of the study, the Task Force recommended that the Hillsborough County initiate an Agriculture Industry Development Program to ensure that a positive business atmosphere exists to promote the continuation and expansion of agriculture in Hillsborough County.  The Task Force also recommended that the county form the Agriculture Economic Development Council, comprised of agribusiness, local chambers of commerce, government, industry and business leaders.  The Agriculture Economic Development Council and the Agriculture Industry Development Program both began in April 1998.  The purpose of the Council is to provide recommendations to the Board of County Commissioners on agriculture-related matters and provide guidance to the Agriculture Industry Development Program.

Hillsborough County Farm Bureau has been very active in this organization. The County Farm Bureau President has permanent position on the Council, along with other Farm Bureau Board of Director Members with appointed seats.

The partnership between the Hillsborough County Agriculture Industry Development Program, the Hillsborough County Agriculture Economic Development Council, and the Hillsborough County Farm Bureau is a model for encouraging the long-term continuation of agriculture.  As we sustain agriculture, we will continue to enjoy rural and wide-open spaces, wildlife habitat, aquifer recharge, economic diversity in the community, a net surplus in tax revenues and access to a fresh food supply.  That’s what sustainability is all about.

More resources on Hillsborough County Agriculture