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  • Author or Editor: Alan W. Hodges x
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Cut-flower production in Bolivia is a growing economic activity with sales increasing > 10-fold in the past 6 years. In spite of this growth, Bolivian producers face considerable financial difficulties. Two distinct patterns emerged from this study. Small and medium growers experienced lower costs than larger producers, but the prices they received were also lower. Large operators received twice the small producer price for their flowers, but this gain was offset by the higher costs they had incurred. In the long term, neither selling too low nor operating at costs too high is a sustainable practice.

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Compared with more traditional sectors of U.S. agriculture, little economic information is available on the turfgrass industry, of which golf courses are an integral part. As a result, over the past 30 years individual states have conducted over 60 individual studies that describe in detail the economic importance of their industry. To date, no such information exists at the national level primarily due to the high cost of collecting primary data. To ameliorate this situation, the authors used secondary data from various sources and developed a composite of the turfgrass industry for the entire United States. This report focuses on the golf course industry in particular. Golf represents a very high value amenity use of horticultural products and services, is a major form of development, and uses large amounts of land and water. Results indicate the golf sector is the largest component of the turfgrass industry, accounting for a 44% share. The nearly 16,000 golf courses generated $33.2 billion (B) in (gross) output impacts, contributed $20.6 B in value added or net income, and generated 483,649 jobs nationwide. Economic impacts were also examined for each state, with “top 10” states highlighted. States falling in the top 10 category varied somewhat depending on the variables being examined. The exception were the top four states—Florida, California, Texas, and Illinois—that remained in the top four irrespective of variable type. In general, the top 10 states accounted for 55% to 60% of economic impacts for the entire United States while the top four alone contributed 40% of the total.

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Transplanting of unrooted cuttings into trays filled with root substrate is an initial process in the production of rooted cuttings. There is potential for companies producing transplants to decrease production costs and increase profit margins by improving the labor efficiency of this process; however, benchmarking between firms is lacking. This study focused on benchmarking labor productivity for transplanting cuttings at young plant operations and identifying key factors that differentiate efficiency between businesses. Data were collected on the transplanting process of 14 U.S. young plant greenhouse companies during their peak production week in 2016. Companies surveyed included nine operations producing bedding plants (BPs) as the major type of transplant. The total weekly labor allocated to transplant cuttings averaged 2109 ± 449 hours (mean ± se) at a labor cost of $26,392 ± $5842 to transplant 1,316,111 ± 273,377 cuttings, resulting in a labor cost of $0.023 ± $0.003 per cutting. For steps within the process of assembling a transplanted tray of cuttings, receiving and handling unrooted cuttings was 3% of the total labor cost, filling trays with root substrate was 8%, inserting cuttings into the root substrate was 70%, supervising was 10%, and moving assembled trays to the greenhouse bench was 8%. The labor cost per cutting varied nearly 5-fold between growers, from $0.010 to $0.049, indicating potential for improved efficiency in higher cost locations. Differences in the labor cost between firms resulted from factors including the plant type produced in each location, with greater handling and grading required for tissue culture and herbaceous perennials compared with BP cuttings, and differences in the hourly labor cost to the business which ranged from $9.23 to $18.66 between locations. Although other factors such as training, available labor pool, and lean manufacturing optimization were observed to affect labor efficiency at individual locations, it was not possible to quantify these effects using the survey approach taken. Benchmarked figures can be used to highlight opportunities to improve labor efficiency and decrease production costs, and to evaluate return on investment for alternative labor-saving approaches including robotic transplanting.

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Nursery production contributed $18.1 billion to the U.S. economy in 2002 and created nearly two million jobs. A U.S. Department of Agriculture multistate research committee on economics and marketing has conducted The National Nursery Survey four times at 5-year intervals (1988, 1993, 1998, and 2003) to help fill the void of publicly available information on production, marketing, and management for the nursery industry. In 2003, the committee conducted the National Nursery Survey using a standard sampling methodology targeting 15,588 total firms representing 44 states with 2,485 nurseries responding. The objective of this analysis was to provide a regional profile of the marketing practices of nursery producers. Regional differences were present in several areas of sales management, selling practices, pricing, and advertising. Generally, the coastal regions had a higher percentage of wholesale sales, whereas interior regions had a higher percentage of retail sales. Newsletters and yellow pages were the most important form of advertising in the Great Plains; trade journals were the most important method in the south central and southeast regions; and catalogs were the most important advertising method for all other regions. The percentage of sales to repeat customers varied from a low of 65.6% in the Great Plains to a high of 76.2% in the southeast. The Appalachian (26.9%) and southeast (26.8%) regions had the highest percentage of negotiated sales, whereas the northeast had the lowest. Although significant differences generally existed among regions in the percentage of sales spent on various transaction methods, nurseries in all regions used in-person, telephone, and mail order as their three most important sales transaction methods, except for the southeast where trade shows were the third most important method of sales transactions. Landscape professionals, rewholesalers, and single-location garden centers were the major market outlets in all regions. Respondents in all regions identified production, personnel, and marketing as limitations for expansion.

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The National Nursery Survey has been conducted four times at 5-year intervals (1988, 1993, 1998, and 2003) by a multistate research committee on economics and marketing to help fill the void of publicly available information on management characteristics of the nursery industry. For the first time in 2003, the National Nursery Survey was conducted using a standard sampling methodology with 15,588 total firms representing 44 states. The objective of this study was to provide a regional analysis of nursery production practices, because production practices and technology use may differ across regions in response to varying economic and environmental conditions. From analysis of the 2485 returned surveys, firms in the northern and interior regions of the country with more seasonal activity made greater use of temporary labor. Containerized growing systems were the predominant system throughout the United States; however, firms in the Southeast, South Central, and Pacific coast regions used this system to a greater degree, whereas firms in other regions also commonly used bare root and balled and burlapped systems. Nurseries in the Southeast region, with a warmer climate, used Integrated Pest Management practices more prevalently. Most regions had a significant share of total production from native American plants, approaching or exceeding 20% of total sales, except the Pacific region. In some regions, forward-contracting accounted for a significantly higher share of total sales, perhaps indicating greater aversion to market risk. The Mountain region stood out for its high level of adoption of computer technologies for production, marketing, and management. Data on water use and irrigation technology did not indicate any clear pattern with respect to regional differences in relation to water scarcity.

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The U.S. nursery and landscape industry generates 1.9 million jobs and had an annual payroll of greater than $3 billion in 2002, yet little is known about nursery and landscape workers. This lack of information is even more pressing considering that labor generally accounts for greater than 40% of production costs and 31% of gross sales. Labor shortages, immigration reform, and legal status of employees are widely reported as the industry's most critical issues. We hypothesized that relevant data regarding the nursery industry workforce may raise an appreciation of the industry's diversity, increase political power and public awareness, and help stakeholders evaluate policy decisions and plan corrective strategies in a more informed manner. A total of 4466 self-administered questionnaires were sent in 2006, attempting to reach 30 nurseries in each of nine states with 1561 returned (35% response rate). Hispanics constituted 70% of the average nursery workforce, including general laborers (76%), crew leaders (61%), and sales/managers (others) (21%). Across firms, labor retention was less than 51% after 5 years and only 22% of employees understood English, raising questions regarding availability and access to training. Sixty percent of nursery employees had not received work-related training, although 81% of men and 72% of women were interested, and an association between training and employee retention existed. The highest rated training topic of interest was English/Spanish (respective of Spanish/English primary language respondents). There was a positive correlation between developing fluency and worker turnover, making the laborer attrition rate even more unfavorable for employers who not only lost employees with acquired experience, but also with acquired English skills.

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