Florida Agriculture and Consumer Services Commissioner Charles H. Bronson is joining state agriculture officials across the nation to recognize Friday, March 20, as National Agriculture Day.

The day is set aside to celebrate not only the abundant food supply agriculture provides but also the tens of thousands of jobs in every state.

In Florida, agriculture is second only to tourism as a top industry in the state, and even in the economic downturn, the industry remains a strong economic engine providing a dependable source of wholesome food, thousands of jobs and a record-breaking market value of agriculture products of $7.8 billion.

The recently released U.S. Department of Agriculture census shows the number of farms in Florida has increased by nearly 8 percent to 47,463 with the majority being small, family farms.

"It is important that we recognize the economic contributions that farmers, ranchers, food scientists and others directly or indirectly related to the agriculture industry provide to our state," Bronson said. "Going forward, the industry will also continue to help the United States reduce its dependence on foreign oil as biomass and other alternative fuels are developed with the help of our farmers."

Bronson says farmers are also good stewards of the environment, providing green space and using best management practices to improve soil and water to ensure that these vital natural resources are available to future generations.

National Ag Day is hosted and organized by the Agriculture Council of America and is held to generate awareness and support of the industry in communities across the nation. Bronson says too few people understand how important agriculture is to their daily lives even though almost everything we eat, use and wear on a daily basis is because of the industry.

Bronson encourages the public to buy Florida-grown products or, when unavailable, those grown in the United States in order to help American farmers. The country-of-origin law which requires labels to say where a product is grown is now in effect. He also says people can encourage their local, state and federal officials to continue supporting the industry and support agriculture programs in the schools.

In fact, Bronson will support Ag Literacy Day by reading to a class of second graders on Monday, March 23 at The Capitol.

"Many young people have little knowledge about agriculture and its importance in our society," Bronson said. "But the average age of farmers in Florida is 58, and it's important that we encourage our young people to consider careers in this growing and ever changing industry."

Bronson says agriculture is producing more and doing it more efficiently than ever before. But he says young minds with new ideas are crucial to continuing the advances in farming technology that are helping to provide not only an abundant but a safe food supply as well.

For more information about Florida agriculture, visit http://www.Florida-Agriculture.com. To learn more about National Ag Day, visit http://www.agday.org.