Navigating Climate Change in Florida Agriculture

Last Updated on April 18, 2024 by Yilin

Florida farmers have different needs depending on what they grow, raise, and how much land they have. But one thing they all need is to understand the climate they work in. This helps them grow crops well, stay financially stable, and make sure their communities have enough food. Since farmers’ needs are so different, it’s hard to say one thing about how they see climate change. But knowing what they think can help find solutions that work for everyone. This way, farmers facing similar challenges can adapt better to climate change and stay aware of what is happening.

Complexity of Florida Agriculture

Understanding climate change in Florida is tricky because the state’s crops and climates vary widely. For example, in central southern Florida, you will find lots of citrus and sugar cane fields around Lake Okeechobee. But in the panhandle, it’s all about peanuts and cotton. Each crop needs different conditions to thrive, which makes it hard to pin down one definition of climate change that fits all of Florida.

Lately, the panhandle has been dealing with moderate droughts, which means farmers there have to use more water to keep their crops alive. Meanwhile, around Lake Okeechobee, there might not be any drought warnings, but the water’s been getting polluted from nearby citrus and sugar cane farms. Sometimes, it’s easy to blame weird weather on nature instead of human actions.

Farmers are busy trying to adapt their methods to stay profitable, so they might not have time for fancy scientific terms. That’s where Extension programs come in — they help farmers understand what’s going on and find better ways to communicate about it.

Extreme Weather Events

In Florida, defining climate change is tough because of all the extreme weather events. People here are used to hurricanes, which can make it hard to see the bigger picture. When big storms like Hurricane Ian flood places like Orlando, we might think it’s just bad luck, not a sign of climate change. But if we look closer, we can see that climate change is making these storms stronger and more frequent.

Farmers have to spend a lot of money fixing the damage from hurricanes. But if they used more sustainable methods, they could break the cycle of damage and save money in the long run.

Adapting to Change

Farmers in Florida are well aware of the changing conditions they face. They’re concerned about shifts in temperature, rainfall, and water quality. To cope with these challenges, approximately 88% of farmers have adopted Best Management Practices. These practices, like cover crops (39%), conservation tillage (37%), buffer strips (12%), and crop rotation (12%), show their willingness to adapt.

Despite some misconceptions, most farmers are proactive about addressing climate change. A majority of farmers are worried about maintaining water quality for their operations and they have already had to adapt their practices to remain economically viable. This means that outreach programs can emphasize how broad the term climate change is and how it affects separate geographic areas distinctly. By doing this, farmers may be more likely to get involved in sustainable initiatives, knowing they can save money in the long run.

It’s also important to raise awareness about government regulations and subsidies. Farmers worry that sustainable investments could leave them financially vulnerable or reduce their control over their farms. Reassuring them that these measures are meant to protect their economic interests in the long term is key. This understanding will encourage farmers to actively participate in adapting their fields and pave the way for more sustainable farming in Florida.


Bartels, W.-L. (2012). Warming up to climate change: a participatory approach to engaging with agricultural stakeholders in the Southeast US – Regional Environmental Change.

Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services.

Florida Drought Map.

Galantowicz, J. (2022). Rainfall from Hurricane Ian floods Florida.

Her, Y. G. Climate Change Impacts and Adaptation in Florida’s Agriculture. Florida Climate Institute.

Liu, H. (2022). Incentivizing the future adoption of best management practices on agricultural land to protect water resources: The role of past participation and experiences. Ecological Economics.


This blog article was written by the University of Florida Active Learning Program student intern Jax Mendelsohn and edited and reviewed by Yilin Zhuang.



Posted: March 18, 2024

Category: AGRICULTURE, Natural Resources, Water
Tags: Adaption, Climate Change, Extreme Weather, Florida Agriculture, Outreach, Water Quality

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