The Numbers Are In By Tim Hodson

In late April, the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) released its annual floriculture crops survey.

According to the “Floriculture Crops 2008 Summary,” the wholesale value of floriculture crops dropped 2 percent compared to 2007 sales.

The 2008 wholesale value of floriculture crops was $4.22 billion compared to 2007’s $4.32 billion. The total number of growers in the 15 states surveyed decreased 3 percent, from 7,387 to 7,189.

To come up with the report, the USDA surveys growers with an annual gross sales of at least $10,000 in 15 states: California, Florida, Hawaii, Illinois, Maryland, Michigan, New Jersey, New York, North Carolina, Ohio, Oregon, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, Texas and Washington.

Five of those states — California, Florida, Michigan, Texas and North Carolina — account for nearly two-thirds of the total production ($2.80 billion). California, the largest floriculture producer in 2008, saw a 2 percent decrease in production last year, while the number two state, Florida, saw a 5 percent decline.

Large growers ($100,000 or more) account for 96 percent ($4.04 billion) of the total value of floriculture crops.

In spite of the economy, several product categories saw increases last year — bedding/garden plants, which is approximately 45 percent of all floriculture sales or $1.84 billion, increased 1 percent while potted bedding/garden plant sales ($1.13 billion) also were up 1 percent. More than $500 million worth of flats of bedding and garden plants also were sold last year — a 2 percent increase versus 2007.

Flowering hanging basket sales ($197 million) decreased 3 percent, while potted herbaceous perennials ($526 million) and potted flowering plants ($698 million) both fell 1 percent.

Cut flowers ($403 million) and cut cultivated greens ($93.5 million) were both off by 5 percent, while foliage plant production ($630 million) decreased 4 percent.

What Does It All Mean?

This is the third year that the USDA has done the 15-state survey for floriculture production. Prior to the 2006 survey, the USDA polled growers in 36 states, so this is only a glimpse of what our industry is producing. You can read this year’s USDA report at

It would be to everyone’s advantage if the USDA went back to the 36-state format: Increasing the number of states surveyed would offer a much more accurate portrayal of what the entire industry is growing and selling.

Given how tough the economy has been on all industries, it will be interesting to see what next year’s USDA survey shows, no matter how many states are involved.

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