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Inflation has pushed South Florida farmers to breaking point: "It's pretty bleak"

South Florida farmers hurting like everyone else when it comes to inflation
South Florida farmers hurting like everyone else when it comes to inflation 03:00

MIAMI - Farmers in South Florida are hurting like everyone else when it comes to the rising costs of inflation.

"Does the consumer have enough money left over to pay a price for produce that will keep me sustainable? That's the dilemma right now," said long-time farmer John Alger, the owner of Alger Farms.

Alger Farms has been operating since the 1930s. Alger said it's been a struggle to break even for the last 10 years, even before the pandemic, supply chain issues, and inflation. Now, he says farmers all over South Florida are reaching a breaking point.

His three-generation farm, with fields of sweet corn and green beans, stretches for miles and supplies the entire east coast with its crops.

It's where Alger and his two dogs spend most of their time. But their days on the farm may be short-lived.

"We're at a crossroads right now. We don't know whether we should continue to even go this next winter. Our costs are 26% higher than what they were two years ago," said Alger.

On top of that, the farm's ten-year average return is 15% less than the projected cost to keep it running.

"My numbers say stop. A man with common sense would stop," said Alger.

He's been tapping into his savings to keep the farm afloat.

"The last 10 years it's just been a very expensive hobby," he explained.

Flavio Carrillo, the Director of the Capital Markets Lab at Florida International University said the problems farmers are facing likely won't go away any time soon.

"Gasoline for example has risen over 60% in the last calendar year, exerting tremendous pressure on farmers who depend on fuel to work their lands," said Carrillo.

He said our economy could get worse.

"The probability of a downturn in the economy over the next 12 months is 48% up from 30% in just the previous month," he explained.

"From Homestead to Belle Glade, we're all being crushed," said Alger.

He said because of that, and over the years, the number of farmers in South Florida is dwindling.

"There used to be over 100 farmers down here. We're down to less than nine," he said, leaving the future of agriculture up in the air.

"It's pretty bleak. It's bleak," he said.

Alger fears without significant changes, "We're going to be a country dependent on imports for our food."

"Unfortunately, the stress caused by uncertainty may be too great to bear for many farmers," said Carrillo.

Alger said in about a week he'll need to decide what to do with the farm. He said if they pull out of the farming business, they'll sit idle for a year to see if the conditions get better. If they don't, there will be one less farmer in South Florida.

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