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BRADENTON, Fla--Nov. 14--Agriculture plays a crucial role in Manatee County's economy and autumn is the industry's prime time. Most people think the county's agriculture industry is confined to tomatoes and citrus fruit -- it's not. There are a slew of other crops and animals --ranging from native mangroves to exotic llamas -- that are important components of the industry as well.
The Manatee County Extension service estimates the agricultural sector contributes $300 million to Manatee County's economy annually. That includes revenue from various vegetable and citrus crops, ornamental plants and trees, livestock and forestry products.
Tomatoes bring more money into Manatee County than any other industry except tourism, and they have long been a crucial foundation of the local economy.
Last year, tomato growing and processing made up more than $100 million of Manatee County's private agricultural revenue, making tomatoes the number one agricultural industry in the county, said Betty Glassburn of the Manatee County Extension office. Tomatoes are grown on 25,000 acres of Manatee County land, Glassburn said.
But increasing foreign competition and falling prices are hurting some Manatee tomato farmers.
Some farmers complain they couldn't sell last year's crop for as much as they expected because a glut of low-priced Mexican tomatoes flooded the American market, said Wayne Hawkins, manager of the …