It’s been well over a century since U.S. Geological Survey employee Capt. J. Francis Lebaron first discovered phosphate pebbles while surveying the Peace River in 1881. He couldn’t have known then that these prehistoric sediments, formed by decaying sea life millions of years before when much of our state’s land was part of the ocean floor, would one day become a major economic driver credited with helping sustain the livelihood for multiple generations of Floridians.
The phosphorus derived from phosphate rock is a naturally occurring element which means it can’t be artificially reproduced. It’s an essential part of every living creature’s DNA; humans need it for healthy bones and to power our cell function. Plants need it to perform photosynthesis so they grow strong and plentiful.
When a grower harvests a crop, soil nutrients like phosphorus get removed from the field along with that crop. Phosphorus is one of the three vital crop nutrients used by farmers to grow more food. If these nutrients aren’t replaced, crop yields – or the amount of food a farmer can grow on that land -- will decrease.
That’s where The Mosaic Company comes in. As the world’s leading producer of finished phosphate-based crop nutrients, Mosaic provides more than half of North American farmers’ supply of granular phosphate fertilizer and 15 percent of the global supply.
Commercial fertilizers are responsible for more than half of the world’s crop yields, depending on soil types. Without these added soil nutrients, farmers wouldn’t be able to produce enough crops to support the global population, which is expected to reach 9.8 billion by 2050.
That makes phosphate a critical component of the global food picture, as well as a driving force behind Mosaic’s mission to help the world grow the food it needs.
Source, time, place, rate
Through partnerships and initiatives focused on educating customers, farmers, and the community about modern growing practices, Mosaic is well-positioned to meet the challenges that lie ahead. In addition to advocating for responsible nutrient management, the company champions the use of sustainable, innovative techniques to help teach farmers how to grow more food on less land.
Mosaic supports and promotes the 4R Nutrient Stewardship framework, which shows farmers that using the right source of nutrients, at the right time, in the right place, and at the right rate can significantly improve overall crop yields on the farm, and also help protect the environment by minimizing and even eliminating nutrient runoff.
Mosaic’s commitment to the safety of people as well as the environment has always been a cornerstone of its Phosphate Operation in Florida. In recent years, however, the company’s environmental record has been subject to increased public scrutiny despite having to operate under more stringent environmental regulations than any other major phosphate producer in the world.
Comparatively speaking, mining today looks much different than it did 30 years ago when more than 20 companies were mining and a dozen manufacturing facilities were operating. Now, there are only three of the original 12 manufacturing facilities left and four mines. This consolidation resulted in fewer impacts and greater environmental protections.
That’s been the case since 1975 when the state began requiring the phosphate industry to reclaim every acre of land it mines. Many of these formerly mined areas have been reclaimed for recreation, wildlife habitat, parks, cattle leases, and government infrastructure.
Fish farming, golfing, paying taxes
To further illustrate the various uses for formerly mined land, Mosaic’s Land Management department now operates thousands of acres of citrus, blueberries, sod, commercial eucalyptus, and pine plantations. There’s even a fish farm, which produces about 1.4 million pounds of restaurant-grade tilapia every year.
Still, Streamsong Resort serves as Mosaic’s premier example of what can be accomplished on reclaimed land. The destination golf resort in Polk County was developed in 2015 on 16,000 acres of previously mined land owned by the company and provides more than 200 seasonal and permanent jobs.
In addition to providing work for local residents, Mosaic’s phosphate operation generates substantial tax revenues for county governments; helping reduce the tax burden for area citizens. Its commitment to community investment extends to a variety of Central Florida charities as well as the United Way.
Being a responsible neighbor is a priority for Mosaic. The company encourages its nearly 3,000 Florida-based employees to be active participants in the communities where they operate. Whether it’s coaching a youth baseball team or volunteering at a local food pantry, their efforts and impact can be seen throughout Central Florida.
In 2018, the company announced plans to move its headquarters to downtown Tampa. On Sept. 30, 2019, the office opened its doors and Mosaic’s employees moved in.
For more information, follow these links to The Mosaic Company and Streamsong Resort.
This story was produced by The Mosaic Company's communications team in celebration of their move into downtown Tampa. Its publication in 83 Degrees Media was paid for by The Mosaic Company as Partner Content. Mosaic is also underwriting stories about Florida agriculture in 83 Degrees. Those stories are selected, reported, and written by the 83 Degrees Media team.