Jacksonville nurseryman Carl B. Loop Jr. grew up around his uncle’s small ornamental nursery in the 1930s, an experience that sparked his interest in agriculture and led the soft-spoken diplomat on a decades-long journey to become Florida’s agricultural ambassador as president of Florida Farm Bureau.
Born March 10, 1928, in Jacksonville, Loop enjoyed spending time at his uncle’s nursery. His interest in the vocation helped him decide to pursue a horticulture degree when he enrolled at the University of Florida in 1946. His love of his country convinced him to join the Florida National Guard that same year. He earned his bachelor’s degree in three years at UF, and his second- lieutenant’s bars in nine years with the National Guard.
He started Loop’s Nursery and Greenhouses with a borrowed truck and a $1,500 loan after he graduated from college in 1949. His nursery, which grows flowering potted plants and tropical foliage, is now one of the largest wholesale nurseries in the Southeast. It spans nearly 50 acres in two locations in Duval and St. Johns counties, and to florists and garden centers around the Southeast.
But it is Loop’s service to Farm Bureau and its members for which he is most widely known. He began his affiliation with the organization the way all Farm Bureau leaders do: as president of a county Farm Bureau. His presidency of Duval County Farm Bureau in the early 1970s led to his elections as a Florida Farm Bureau director in 1972, vice president in 1982, and president in 1983. Members have re-elected him to eight, two-year terms since.
Florida Farm Bureau faced difficult financial times when Loop took over in the early 1980s. With the insurance side of Farm Bureau’s business struggling, Loop had the tough task of strengthening its bottom line and reassuring its membership base. He handled the situation deftly, fostering an atmosphere of cooperation among commodity groups around the state. He is credited with more than doubling Florida Farm Bureau’s membership, which now exceeds143,000, and re-establishing it as the pre-eminent general agriculture organization in Florida and in the United States.
American Farm Bureau elected him to its board of directors in 1986, a position he still holds. He became vice president in 1995, but stepped down last year. He continues to serve as president of Southern Farm Bureau Life Insurance Co. and Florida Farm Bureau Insurance Group.
Global free trade talks have taken center stage during Loop’s tenure at Florida Farm Bureau. Presidents Ronald Reagan, George Bush, Bill Clinton and George W. Bush each appointed him to advisory panels with the U.S. Department of Agriculture and the U.S. Trade Representative’s Office. He currently serves as a member of the joint USDA/USTR Agricultural Policy Advisory Committee.
He has appeared many times before Congressional committees and regulatory agencies on behalf of Florida farmers, growers and ranchers. He has helped shape legislation that reduced the estate tax, improved the availability of health care, addressed ergonomics issues, and debated the importance of the use of methyl bromide, among other issues.
In addition, he has served as a member of the search committees that selected three vice presidents of the University of Florida’s Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences. Loop also helped found the Florida Nurserymen and Growers Association and the Florida Foliage Association, which have since merged.
Loop received the University of Florida’s Award of Distinction in 1999, Progressive Farmer’s Florida Farmer of the Year in 1999, and the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services’ External Distinguished Service Award in 1990.
He is past president of the Jacksonville Baptist Home for Children, and past deacon of the First Baptist Church in Jacksonville. He and his wife, Ruth, live in Jacksonville where they enjoy their three children and five grandchildren.