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Rooted in Resilience – Hillsborough County Farm Bureau President, Dennis Carlton, Jr.

December 2021 FloridAgriculture eNewsletter

Hillsborough County Farm Bureau (HCFB) President, Dennis Carlton Jr., has deep roots in Florida agriculture. Carlton is an 8th generation Floridian who grew up in Dover in Hillsborough County.

He and his wife, Sara Beth, have two young children, Anna Kate and Dennis Carlton, III. Carlton is part-owner in his family’s beef cattle operation, an extensive cattle operation that spans six central Florida counties. He is also involved in real estate and owns properties that he leases to farmers for strawberry production, a crop that has a local economic impact of $700 million. He and his family are active members of FFW Baptist Church in Seffner.

Carlton has served as HCFB president for three years. It is a role that he holds dear to his heart. “I enjoy advocating on behalf of farmers and ranchers and am very tuned into agricultural issues that affect my community and state,” he said.
Carlton explained that agriculture in Hillsborough County is very diverse, with more than 2,200 farms and a population of 1.5 million. He stressed the importance of having a strong, active board of directors making a difference in their community and he is proud to serve alongside them.

HCFB is committed to pouring into youth in the community through agricultural education. Each year, the county Farm Bureau hosts an Ag Abilities event and an Ag Ventures Day where elementary school students can learn about local agriculture through hands-on activities.

Ag Abilities has been a remarkable success since 2001 thanks to Hillsborough County Farm Bureau Executive Director Judi Whitson. The event attracts young Exceptional Education Students (ESE) from schools throughout the county and is held at the state fairgrounds in Tampa. The half day competition allows volunteers to interact with students while they learn about agriculture. Sample categories include the foods we eat, tractor driving and animal breed identification. Students are served lunch and participate in an awards ceremony. It is a heartwarming day for the students as well as the volunteers who make the day such a great success.

Farm-City Week, held annually the week before Thanksgiving, is another opportunity in which Carlton uses to connect to consumers in his community. The week-long event is a celebration of the partnerships between urban and rural residents. This year, Carlton was invited to speak at an event hosted by the Hillsborough County Board of County Commissioners on the importance of local agriculture and the benefits it provides.

“Hillsborough County Farm Bureau is dedicated to its members and upholding it’s strength as an organization within our community,” he said.

Grassroots Gathering to Keep Agriculture Strong

December 2021 FloridAgriculture E-Newsletter

Hundreds of Florida Farm Bureau members from across the state convened at the state Capitol on Nov. 30 to meet with legislators during Florida Farm Bureau’s annual Farm Bureau Day.

The state’s largest general agricultural organization and its members spent a full day in Tallahassee visiting with lawmakers to discuss key policy issues that affect agriculture.

Top issues included support for a nutrient efficiency bill for farmers and ranchers so that they can continue to implement Best Management Practices.

Additional funding for the University of Florida Institute for Food and Agricultural Sciences’ research projects and the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services’ Fresh from Florida and Rural and Family Lands Program were also a top priority.

The day-long legislative event kicked off with a briefing breakfast at the Donald L.Tucker Civic Center. The day followed with meetings with elected officials and a group session in the Senate Chamber where Senate President Wilton Simpson detailed the importance of keeping agriculture strong in Florida. Other lawmakers also took time to speak to Florida Farm Bureau members on the importance of advocacy.

The annual “Taste of Florida Agriculture” public event at the Capitol Courtyard concluded the day where more than 1,000 guests attended.  Visitors were able to sample locally grown Florida fruits and vegetables, meet farmers and ranchers and learn more about the importance of an economic sector that contributes $149 billion to the state’s economy.

Keynote speakers at the reception included Florida Commissioner of Agriculture Nikki Fried and Florida Farm Bureau President Jeb S. Smith.

The reception is a partnership between Florida Farm Bureau and the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services.

Strong La Niña Portends Warm and Dry Winter for Florida

December 2021 FloridAgriculture E-Newsletter

For nearly a year now, weather forecasts have predicted Florida and much of the southeast to experience a more than normal warm and dry winter.  The latest ENSO Discussion (linked below) discusses there is a 90% chance of continuing conditions from now through March.  A strong La Niña for Florida in the winter/spring is warmer and dryer than average.  Thankfully, the Floridan Aquifer and Lake Okeechobee are currently at reasonable levels.  Close water management is required to insure an adequate water supply for permitted users through a dry spring.

The La Niña signal drops to 50% for March – May.  However, those months are typically dry for Florida.

The latest ENSO Discussion is now available at:

National Farm Bureau Competitions Shape Young Leaders

December 2021 FloridAgriculture E-Newsletter

The Young Farmers & Ranchers program helps young Farm Bureau members shape their future and American agriculture through leadership development and personal growth opportunities. Three competitions enable members to showcase their leadership experience, communication skills and successful business plans as they compete against the best of the best from each state Farm Bureau.

During the 2022 American Farm Bureau Annual Convention & Trade Show, three members from Florida will compete for national titles in their respective competitive events.

Meet Our Florida Competitors:

Excellence in Agriculture Competitor: Scarlett Jackson

Scarlett Jackson of Polk County will be competing in the Excellence in Agriculture competition.  Jackson is a fifth-generation agriculturist who is an advocate for agriculture. She has a diverse farm background in cattle, citrus, strawberries, vegetables and fish.





Achievement in Agriculture Competitors: Shelby & Kevin Lussier

Shelby and Kevin Lussier will be competing in the Achievement in Agriculture competition. This high honor recognizes Young Farmers and Ranchers for their skill at farm production, development of their agricultural enterprise and service to Farm Bureau and the local community.  The Lussiers raise dairy cattle and own a hand-crafted artisan cheese business, Hawthorne Creek Creamery, in Hawthorne, Fla.  Kevin is the third generation to work on his family’s farm after graduating college in 2016. The couple were able to diversify the farm by expanding its operation to include a cow-calf operation and a creamery, which offers Gouda, Havarti and Swiss cheese.


Discussion Meet Competitor: Sydney Armstrong

Sydney Armstrong served on the 2018-2020 Florida Farm Bureau YF&R State Leadership Group. She has been involved in agriculture since she was a young girl, serving as a Florida FFA State Officer and secretary for the Collegiate Farm Bureau.  Armstrong now works for the Jackson County Sheriff’s Office as the Public Information Officer and serves on the Jackson County Women’s Leadership Committee.


As part of the YF&R competitions, the top four competitors in the Achievement Award, Discussion Meet and Excellence in Ag areas will receive:

Winner (1st Place): a new Ford vehicle (up to a value of $35,000) and paid registration to the Farm Bureau YF&R Conference in Louisville, Kentucky, courtesy of Ford.

Runner-up (Second Place) receives: Case IH Farmall 50A, courtesy of Case IH.

Third Place receives: Case IH 40” Combination Roll Cabinet & Top Chest and $500 Case IH parts card, courtesy of Case IH, a $2,500 Investing in Your Future cash prize, courtesy of American Agricultural Insurance Company plus $1,850 worth of Stanley Black & Decker merchandise (PROTO, DeWalt, Stanley, Lenox & Irwin), courtesy of Stanley Black & Decker.

Fourth Place receives: Case IH 40” Combination Roll Cabinet & Top Chest and a $500 Case IH parts card, courtesy of Case IH.

USFWS Expanding the Definition of Critical Habitat

December FloridAgriculture E-Newsletter

On October 27, 2021, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) published two proposed Rules in the Federal Register to rescind critical habitat regulations.  The agency action removes the definition of “habitat” established by the rule titled “Regulations for Listing Endangered and Threatened Species and Designating Critical Habitat” that was published on December 16, 2020.

Critical habitat is defined as an area essential to the conservation of a species that may require special management or protection.

The rescind will give the agency more preference in determining critical habitat and will likely lead to private property rights infringements that will need to be litigated.

In November 2018, the U.S. Supreme court handed a victory to timber company Weyerhaeuser Co and other landowners seeking to limit the federal government’s power to designate private land as protected habitat for endangered species in a property rights case involving the Dusky Gopher frog.

Pacific Legal Foundation litigated this case for the defendants who claimed that the frog was never recorded on the private lands deemed critical habitat.  The agency argued that landowner activities (tree planting) made the land favorable to habitation for the frog to flourish.

Though the Supreme Court was unanimous, the ruling does have limitations and may not be entirely protective of agency overreach.  Florida Farm Bureau staff daily tracks federal agency action and is in regular contact with Pacific Legal Foundation.

In the Community – Jackson County Farm Bureau

December 2021 FloridAgriculture E-Newsletter

A Farm-City Celebration has been held annually in Jackson County for the past 48 years.  Last year the recognition was virtual via a social media video, but this year’s celebration was a public breakfast once again.  The Jackson County Chamber of Commerce, Farm Credit of Northwest Florida, Jackson County Farm Bureau, and UF/IFAS Extension Jackson County recognized 10 farm families with awards in 2021.  The following highlights were compiled from contributions from the farm families being honored, and the cooperating agency personnel that selected this year’s slate of award winners at the annual Farm City Breakfast, that was held November 19, 2021.

This Farm CARES Recognition – McArthur Farms

In 2001, the County Alliance for Responsible Environmental Stewardship, or CARES program, was created.  Two decades later Farm Bureau continues to publicly recognize farmers and ranchers who demonstrate exemplary environmental stewardship by implementing Best Management Practices, or BMPs, on their farms and ranches.  Through the implementation of BMPs, Florida farmers and ranchers have shown a sincere commitment to protecting our state’s natural resources and Farm Bureau is proud to recognize them for their efforts.

Farm Bureau is fortunate to partner with both the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services and the University of Florida/ IFAS for the CARES program.  We are appreciative for the trusted relationships they build with producers to help advance their conservation efforts.

As part of the CARES program, recipients are awarded a customized “This Farm CARES” sign to display at their farm gate or headquarters.  This sign communicates to the general public that Florida farmers and ranchers are committed to protecting local natural resources.  To date, more than 900 Florida farm families proudly display a CARES sign on their property.

This year’s recipient produces cotton, corn, peanuts and small grains on more than 1,000 acres near Malone.  To accomplish their goals of reducing water and nutrient use as well as protecting water quality, Best Management Practices have been implanted for more than a decade now.  Some of the most effective practices implemented include enhanced irrigation systems, precision application systems and GPS guided equipment.  The nominator for this year’s recipient was Garrett Williams from the Jackson Soil and Water Conservation District.  Garret described the McArthur family as a shining example of farmers who love the land continuously desire to be good environmental stewards of the land under their care.

Florida Farm Bureau is proud to award exemplary environmental stewards and this year’s CARES award is being presented to Jim and Larry McArthur and family, because McArthur Farms cares about protecting natural resources. 

Read more….

UF Researchers Awarded $2.2 Million to Fight Citrus Greening

December 2021 FloridAgriculture E-Newsletter

PC: IFAS Photography
PC: IFAS Photography

University of Florida citrus researchers continue to provide innovative leadership in the fight against the devastating disease Huanglongbing, also known as citrus greening disease.

The USDA National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA) Emergency Citrus Disease Research and Extension Program recently awarded over $2.2 million in three grants to UF Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences faculty to advance the known science to fight the disease.

In addition, UF/IFAS researchers are serving in leadership roles in two other multi-million-dollar grants awarded to colleague institutions from across the nation.

Collectively, these projects provide an aggressive strategy to finding viable, realistic solutions in the fight against citrus greening and represent over $3.5 in federal funding for UF/IFAS research. More importantly, UF/IFAS researchers are participating in each of the five grants awarded in this funding cycle.

Targeting the Asian citrus psyllid (ACP) gut to block Candidatus Liberibacter asiaticus transmission

UF/IFAS Citrus Research and Education Center (CREC) faculty Kirsten Pelz-Stelinski and Bryony Bonning from Gainesville will direct a two-year, $1,020,810 grant, which aims to provide a pathogen transmission-blocking strategy toward mitigation of citrus greening-related losses.

The goal of the project is to identify gut-binding peptides (GBP) that compete with the bacterium that causes citrus greening (CLas) for attachment to the ACP gut. Ultimately, that process could disrupt the transmission of CLas by the psyllid. In essence, this strategy would break the cycle of pathogen transmission at the source by neutralizing the psyllid. 

Utilizing HLB-tolerant citrus germplasm and understanding its role in mitigating Huanglongbong

UF/IFAS CREC faculty Manjul Dutt, Nabil Killiny and Lauren Diepenbrock and Southwest Florida Research and Education Center researcher Ozgur Batuman will focus on integrating the natural HLB resistance present in Australian limes into conventional citrus to produce HLB-resistant Australian lime hybrid rootstocks and interstocks and eventually produce HLB-resistant scions against HLB.

The two-year, $500,000 grant will involve planting on stakeholder plots and greenhouse environments.

Regional management strategies for Asian citrus psyllid and HLB prevention in commercial groves and residential plantings

UF/IFAS CREC faculty Lauren Diepenbrock, Megan Dewdney, Ariel Singerman, Davie Kadyampakeni and Christopher Vincent will support the needs of both commercial and residential citrus growers by comparing new tools that are intended to support young tree establishment that are currently available and developing  management recommendations for each tool for both audiences.

The project will study Individual Protective Covers, metallized reflective “mulch” (polyurethane ground cover) and red-dyed kaolin, which are thought to be visual and/or physical deterrents to the Asian citrus psyllid, the vector for the bacterium that causes citrus greening.

The project will compare psyllid and other insect/mite infestation, pathogen incidence, tree growth and development above and below ground, irrigation and fertilizer needs and yield to provide a holistic comparison of these tools to growers. The team will also provide modified versions of these field tools for use in residential use in collaboration with the UF/IFAS Extension Florida Master Gardener Volunteer network. The two-year program is funded at $750,000.

Advanced testing and commercialization of novel defensin peptides and therapies for HLB control

Ute Albrecht from the UF/IFAS Southwest Florida Research and Education Center will be joined by CREC faculty Ariel Singerman and Choaa El-Mohtar working on a Coordinated Agricultural Project (CAP) with Texas A & M University to test promising HLB therapies to kill the bacterium CLas and control HLB.

Methods to be tested include using the hairy root system to screen potent anti-CLas peptide and small molecules. Researchers plan to use multiple locations and multi-year field evaluations of the therapies and delivery systems. Economic feasibility studies will be conducted to determine the extent of benefits to the citrus growers.

The four-year, $7,000,000 project will direct $868,792 to UF/IFAS for its contributions to the study.

Use performance of 300 hybrids in established trials to map Huanglongbing tolerance/resistance genes and release superior new rootstocks

Ute Albrecht from SWFREC and Zhanao Deng from the Gulf Coast Research and Education Center will work with the USDA and the University of California-Riverside on a two-year, $1,499,998 project that will advance existing work on 300 rootstock hybrids to identify the best performing HLB-tolerant rootstocks for commercial release with expanded collection of performance information. Researchers hope to identify and select a minimum of three new rootstock cultivars for release to growers before the end of 2023.

UF/IFAS will receive $445,808 for its role in this project.

Land Grant Partner: J. Scott Angle

December 2021 FloridAgriculture eNewsletter

By J. Scott Angle

You know that as a farmer, you’re a steward of the environment you depend on for your livelihood. Maybe you don’t think much about carbon sequestration yet, but the way you farm can make you a climate hero.

Farm Bureau member and former Miami-Dade board member Sandy Stein has been quietly leading the way at his Jungle Nursery in Homestead, where he grows interior foliage. I was glad he received public recognition at the annual meeting in late October.

UF/IFAS nominated Sandy for the commissioner’s Agricultural-Environmental Leadership Award in part because he’s an important leader in the movement to have policy makers – and farmers themselves – recognize farms, forests and ranches as sources of climate solutions. Without this leadership and this movement, you can expect more blame for climate change to be heaped on you.

One of the more important alliances between UF/IFAS and Florida producers is the Florida Climate Smart Agriculture Work Group, of which Sandy has been an active member. This producer-led discussion has evolved into a movement to incentivize farmers to do more of what helps the planet—sequestering carbon, protecting wildlife, hosting pollinators, filtering water, and preventing floods.

Few of you get paid for any of this. If policy makers and the public want more of it, then we need policies that allow you to “sell” these things just like you sell vegetables, beef, timber, flowers and fish.

Sandy has not only been an important voice in this movement, which UF/IFAS supports by hosting the group meetings and providing technical expertise, but he has been vocal about raising awareness of existing incentives.

Yes, there are some. It’s a disjointed patchwork of cost-share programs, easements and pilot projects among federal, state, regional and local agencies. Stein advocates for a central clearinghouse you could consult to identify the full range of opportunities to do more of what you already do to provide the public goods we call ecosystems services.

Sandy applies beneficial bugs instead of pesticides to his plants, uses controlled release fertilizers and engages in other environmentally friendly practices. He does this without government incentives in pursuit of his own vision of environmental stewardship.

You’ve been taking care of the land for generations, and UF/IFAS has been helping you do it with the science behind reducing inputs, developing Florida-friendly crop varieties, managing nutrients for less runoff and leaching, and maintaining soil health. Now there’s a need for the science of sequestering carbon.

UF/IFAS long ago recognized Sandy’s leadership potential when we accepted him into our Wedgworth Leadership Institute for Agriculture and Natural Resources.

The Farm Bureau’s recognition of leaders like Sandy is an important signal that you’re part of climate solutions. Sandy is among those leading the way for farmers to protect both profit and planet. The future of farming—and Florida—depends on it.

Scott Angle is the University of Florida’s Vice President for Agriculture and Natural Resources and leader of the UF Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences (UF/IFAS).


Keynote Speakers Enhance 2022 AFBF Convention Agenda

Register NOW to attend the 2022 American Farm Bureau Convention and catch these funny, motivating and inspiring speakers as they light up the general session stages at #AFBF22!

The 2022 American Farm Bureau Convention registration is open.
This is the 103rd consecutive American Farm Bureau Convention
and will be held in-person Jan. 7-12, 2022, in Atlanta, Georgia,
with an option to attend portions of the event virtually for those choosing not to attend in-person.  General session keynote speakers slated for the 2022 American Farm Bureau Convention are sure to inspire and entertain attendees. Inspirational speaker Jim “Murph” Murphy, founder and chairman of Afterburner, will speak during the afternoon general session at the convention on Sunday, Jan. 9, in Atlanta, Georgia. Hear from this farm boy turned fighter pilot as he inspires us to boost performance, execution and profits. Comedian Jeff Allen will perform on Monday, Jan. 10, during the convention’s closing general session. Prepare yourselves for this hilarious, tell-it-like-it-is comedian! Jeff Allen’s rapid-fire humor, which centers on marriage and family, is a hit with all ages.  AFBF President Zippy Duvall will speak during the opening general session, Sunday, January 9 at 9:30 a.m. Duvall will inspire us and set the intention for Farm Bureau in 2022.

View the high-level agenda here and register here: