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Land Grant Partner

January FloridAgriculture eNewsletter

dr angleBy J. Scott Angle

The future of Florida farming depends on turning data into decisions and getting you credit for environmental stewardship.

UF/IFAS will help you achieve the first part by developing agricultural applications for artificial intelligence (AI)—think smart sprayers, counting tree canopies through aerial imaging, and phone apps that detect disease invisible to the human eye.

The second is incentivizing you to continue or even increase the amount of public goods you deliver but for which you do not presently get paid—think wildlife habitat, water storage, and carbon sequestration. We call these ecosystems services (ES).

Neither you in the field nor us in the lab can get there alone. So I recently went looking for those with the highest stake in that future—the young.

I found them through you, the Florida Farm Bureau Federation, and FFBF’s Young Farmers & Ranchers (YF&R). Actually, our own young ag leader, Christopher Hodge, UF/IFAS assistant director of governmental affairs, found them.

When we spent a day at the UF/IFAS Citrus Research and Education Center in Lake Alfred, they not only showed interest in learning more about AI and ES, they wanted to know how to integrate them into Florida farming faster.

They challenged me with angles I hadn’t fully considered. Lake County Farm Bureau board member Ryan Atwood urged Extension to provide guidance for the software purchasing decisions farmers will have to make, similar to how those agents currently provide advice on pesticides.

Highlands County YF&R Vice Chair Mikayla Allison asked me how I was going to address incentivizing increased carbon sequestration on land where the soil has already reached a carbon saturation point. I have to confess, even as a soil scientist, that it had not been on my mind.


Former state YF&R leadership group member and Okeechobee County Farm Bureau vice president and dairyman Ben Butler urged me not to forget animal agriculture in developing AI technologies. He also asked that UF/IFAS to step up the integration of AI and ES by using technology to capture more nutrients before they leave the farm—and to show a public skeptical of agriculture’s environmental stewardship that farmers and scientists are hard at work on this.

UF/IFAS and FFBF will work together effectively toward this future together because we’ve already worked together effectively to develop the future leaders that were around the table that day in Lake Alfred.

Atwood is a double Gator, a former UF/IFAS Extension agent and a Wedgworth Leadership Institute graduate. Allison is a current student in the UF/IFAS College of Agricultural and Life Sciences pursuing a master’s degree online in the evenings while she works during the day for an agricultural software company. Butler is a double Gator as well as a graduate of Wedgworth.

These young ag leaders urged UF/IFAS to get Florida farming to its future faster and to do it in discussion with them. I can’t guarantee how fast the transformation of Florida agriculture will occur, but UF/IFAS will continue to rely on the insights of these young ag leaders to get there.

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





Director of Field Services

Summary: This position will coordinate and supervise the activities of the Federation’s Field Staff, the Young Farmer and Rancher Leadership program, the State Women’s Committee, Membership and the records necessary to submit to American Farm Bureau, county Farm Bureau leadership development and training and other organizational activities as assigned. This position will have the responsibility for budget development and accountability. Strong verbal and written communication skills are essential as are team building and managerial skills.

Apply Now 

Essential Duties and Responsibilities:

  • Provides direct supervision of the District Field Supervisors, Leadership Programs Coordinator (YF&R and Women’s program), Membership Acquisition Manager and Administrative Assistant. This includes hiring, assigning work, conducting job reviews and counseling, recommending promotion, salary adjustments and terminations.
  • Schedules and conducts field staff meetings, training and professional development opportunities for all staff and volunteer leaders.
  • Prepares and presents to the Florida Farm Bureau Board of Directors, county Farm Bureaus, Farm Bureau leaders and other appropriate audiences.
  • Provide leadership in identifying and supervision of services that are provided for Farm Bureau members.
  • Provide leadership and vision to develop and deliver Farm Bureau programs to the Farm Bureau leadership and members.
  • Provide guidance to staff on organizational issues as well as responds to inquiries or complaints by county Farm Bureaus and/or members.
  • Oversee Florida Farm Bureau’s membership acquisition and retention strategies and provides forecasting models.
  • Manages Field Services in a coordinated effort to achieve Florida Farm Bureau’s vision and goals.
  • Maintains an open line of communication between the county Farm Bureaus and the Florida Farm Bureau, while maintaining open communications within the organizational structure.
  • Engage with Information Technology staff on membership database development and reporting.
  • Performs other duties as assigned.

Supervisory Responsibility:

Carries out supervisory responsibilities in accordance with Florida Farm Bureau policies. Responsibilities include interviewing, hiring, and training employees; planning, assigning and directing work; appraising performance; rewarding and disciplining employees; addressing complaints and resolving problems.

Qualification Requirements: 

To perform this job successfully, an individual must be able to perform each essential duty satisfactorily. The requirements listed are representative of the knowledge, skill and/or ability required. Reasonable accommodations may be made to enable individuals with disabilities to perform the essential functions.

Computer Skills: 

A basic knowledge of computers to include Microsoft Word, Outlook, PowerPoint and Internet usage.  Experience with Customer Relationship Management and Association Management Software platforms preferred.

Education and/or Experience: 

Bachelor’s degree from four-year college or university with 5 to 7 years related experience or equivalent combination of education and experience.  An agricultural background is preferred.

Language Skills:

Ability to read, analyze and interpret general business periodicals, professional journals, technical procedures, or governmental regulations.  Ability to write reports, business correspondence and procedure manuals.  Ability to effectively present information and respond to questions from groups of managers, clients, customers, and the general public.  Will provide a 2-page writing example.

Reasoning Ability: 

Ability to solve practical problem situations where only limited information exists.  Ability to interpret a variety of instructions furnished in written, oral, diagram, or schedule form.  Ability to rationally think through practical problems.


Must possess a valid State of Florida driver’s license.

Physical Demands: 

The physical demands described here are representative of those that must be met by an employee in order to successfully perform the essential functions of this job.  Reasonable accommodations may be made to enable individuals with disabilities to perform the essential functions. While performing the duties of this job, the employee is regularly required to sit; while using their hands to finger, handle, or feel objects, tools, or controls; talk and hear.  The employee is occasionally required to stand and walk.  Duties will require frequent day and/or overnight travel within state by auto, occasional out of state air travel. The employee must regularly lift and/or move up to 10 pounds and occasionally lift and/or move up to 40 pounds.  Specific vision abilities required by this job include close vision.

Work Environment: 

The work environment characteristics described here are representative of those an employee encounters while performing the essential functions of this job.  Reasonable accommodations may be made to enable individuals with disabilities to perform the essential functions. The noise level in the work environment is usually quiet.

The above statements are intended to describe the general nature and level of work being performed.  They are not intended to be construed as an exhaustive list of all the essential duties, responsibilities and requirements of personnel.

No Phones Calls Please

Growing Forward: Olivia Pope

January 2023 FloridAgriculture eNewsletter

Olivia Pope
YF&R State Leadership Group, District 8

Olivia Pope is a proud fourth-generation agriculturalist in the rural town of Pahokee. Her great-grandfather moved their family to Palm Beach County in 1926 after he worked as a produce salesman and realized the abundant farming opportunities. Since then, Pope Farms has been growing sweet corn, sugarcane, green beans and cabbage in the Everglades Agricultural Area (EAA).

Growing up on the family farm, Pope always knew she wanted a career in agriculture. As she got older, her father advised her to attend the University of Florida (UF) to broaden her knowledge of Florida’s unique agriculture. She received her bachelor’s in Agribusiness in 2019 and master’s in business management in 2020.

After college, Pope returned home where she started her career with Wedgworth’s Inc. Since she began, Wedgworth’s Inc. has expanded their portfolio by acquiring a fertilizer technology company and establishing Summit Nutrients, where Pope is now the National Brand Manager.

Throughout her childhood and college career, Florida Farm Bureau has always been a huge part of Pope’s life. Her parents have been actively involved in the organization for over 25 years. Pope joined the UF Collegiate Farm Bureau and completed an internship at the Florida Farm Bureau state office during college. After moving back home, Pope was elected to the Palm Beach County Farm Bureau Board of Directors and is now a member of the Young Farmers and Ranchers State Leadership Group.

“My favorite thing about Farm Bureau is having the opportunity to advocate for agriculture,” said Pope. “I love being able to tell the story of EAA farmers, how we’re protecting the land, and the passion we have for agriculture.”

One of Pope’s favorite times to advocate for agriculture is at the Sweet Corn Fiesta. Held every April, this event is set in the Yesteryear Village at the South Florida Fairgrounds, providing festival goers with an “Old Florida” environment. There you can find sweet corn of every kind. From freshly cooked corn on the cob, to crates of corn brought straight from the field, and even the highly anticipated shucking and eating contests. The fiesta is home to the only professional sweet corn eating contest in the world.

“It is hosted in West Palm Beach, which provides us a greater opportunity to educate our neighbors on the coast about the agriculture in their backyard,” said Pope. “People leave with a better understanding of a farmer, what they do and who they are. They learn that food comes from the land, it doesn’t just appear in the store. People just like them are out in a field, growing their food.”

Pope is optimistic for the continual growth of Florida agriculture. Being in agriculture and Florida Farm Bureau, she continues to look forward and is taking care of the land for the next generation.

“Agriculture is one of the riskiest industries to be a part of,” Pope said. “We have been extremely blessed to be in business for this long, and I intend to do everything I can to ensure Florida agriculture continues for generations to come.”

USDA Scientists Create Nanobodies to Prevent the Spread of Bacteria

January 2023 FloridAgriculture eNewsletter

Scientists at the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Agricultural Research Service (ARS) have discovered that these nanobodies can be used to prevent and treat citrus greening disease. Through continued research, scientists have also found that they can aid in the prevention of SARS-CoV-2 by blocking the virus’ protein from binding with the receptor protein.

A Symbiont developing on a citrus tree expressing a red-colored visual marker used in evaluating Symbiont technology. (Photo credit Dr. Marco Pitino, AgroSource, Inc.)

What started as research to prevent and treat citrus greening has developed into easily producible nanobodies in plants with broad agricultural and public health benefits, such as a treatment for SARS-CoV-2.

ARS scientists are using their newly developed and patented SymbiontTM technology to demonstrate the easy production of nanobodies in plants. In an article put out by the USDA, ARS researcher Robert Shatters, Jr. shares the importance of the research him and his team are doing.

“The results of that research are indeed successful and beneficial for the nation’s agricultural system,” said ARS researcher Robert Shatters, Jr. “But now we are aware of an even greater result – the benefits of producing therapeutics in plants now justify the consideration of using plants to mass produce COVID-19 protein-based therapies.”

AgroSource, Inc. has collaborated with USDA-ARS to develop the plant-based production system.

For more information about the nanobodies and the full article, click here.





Florida Farm Bureau Federation is the Sunshine State’s oldest and largest general agriculture organization. We pride ourselves in being the voice of Florida’s farmers and ranchers and keeping their traditions, values and heritage alive for generations to come. Since our founding in 1941, the District Field Representative has been an integral part of the success of our organization. Our District Field Representatives work closely with the volunteers of each county Farm Bureau within their assigned area to accomplish the goals and objectives of our organization. This career requires a person with a deep passion for agriculture, a servant leader’s heart and motivation to succeed.

As a member of the Field Services team, everyone is expected to personally exhibit, at all times, three standards: uncompromising integrity, unyielding work ethic and a positive attitude. Furthermore, our team members are energetic, high achievers with a genuine love for people and seek to consistently improve our personal and professional abilities.

Apply Now 

This position is expected to work autonomously with minimal instruction or direction and be able to accomplish the following:
● Serve as a communication conduit between Florida Farm Bureau and the county Farm Bureaus in the district.
● Collaborate and work effectively with all members of the Florida Farm Bureau team to accomplish goals and objectives as assigned.
● Work closely with the county Farm Bureaus, regularly attend county events, represent the organization at activities, and increase engagement within county boards.
● Build and develop productive relationships with your county Farm Bureau leaders and members.
● Assist county Farm Bureaus in the promotion of agriculture within their respective communities.
● Assist county Farm Bureaus in the marketing of membership in order to increase recruitment and retention.
● Work closely with the Leadership Programs Coordinator in fulfilling the goals and objectives of the Young Farmers and Ranchers and Women’s Leadership Programs within their respective district.
● Assist county Farm Bureaus in surfacing and developing effective leaders. Examples are state advisory committee members, YF&R and Women’s participants.
● Speak on behalf of Florida Farm Bureau at various events throughout the district.
● Write articles on behalf of agriculture and Farm Bureau to newspapers, legislators, and others.
● Proficient in the operation of Microsoft Office applications (ie. Word, Excel, PowerPoint, etc.)

In order to perform the job successfully, the District Field Representative must be able to perform all the aforementioned duties, while being required to plan, conduct and attend various evening and weekend activities. The requirements listed below are representative of the knowledge, skill, and ability required.
The District Field Representative is required to live within one of the following counties: Bay, Calhoun, Escambia, Gulf, Holmes, Jackson, Okaloosa, Santa Rosa, Walton and Washington.

A bachelor’s degree in an agricultural related field from a four-year college or university, and two years of work experience or master’s degree required.

A District Field Representative must have the ability to read, analyze, and interpret general business periodicals, professional journals, technical procedures, or government regulations. They also must be effective in writing reports, articles, and business correspondence to a variety of audiences. They should be proficient in presenting information in a professional manner and to competently respond to questions from groups, members, and the general public.

A District Field Representative is able to solve practical problems and interpret a variety of instructions and information furnished in written, oral, and other forms. Emotional intelligence is necessary to achieve productive relationships with our members and county Farm Bureaus.

The physical demands described here are representative of those that must be met by an employee in order to successfully perform the essential functions of this job.
1. While performing the duties of this job, the employee will be required to travel extensively by automobile, during all hours and in various weather conditions.
2. Will be required to aid and assist in setting up meetings, moving tables, plants and other materials moving weights up to 50-60 lbs.
3. May be required to drive a truck or van.

The Many Uses of the Mason Jar

Since its invention in 1858, the Mason jar has found itself a useful everyday item. From canning to décor to drinkware, people have found it to be very versatile.

Invented and patented over 150 years ago by John Landis Mason, the unique glass jar features a screw threaded lid. Since its inception, the Mason jar (U.S. Patent No. 22,186) has been made in hundreds of shapes and cap designs. A true Mason jar is always made of glass and should feature an airtight sealed lid.

First popularized in farming communities for canning and displaying canned goods at county fairs, Mason jars continue to be a staple in rural households nationwide. Farmhouse chic has become a popular design trend for many homes and décor includes the iconic Mason jar.

Mason jars have been found useful for more than just canning. The jar can be used as a coffee cup, sugar or salt dispenser, condiment server, candy holder, or to go cup. For more kid friendly uses it can serve as a baby bottle, snow globe, or piggy bank.

Mason jars make great gifts as well. Pre-mix recipes, cake in a jar, DIY ornaments or frames are unique ideas to incorporate the versatile jar into a gift. It is also quite handy around the house and can be used to hold Q-tips, soap, flowers, candles, buttons, and pens.

For more information about the Mason jar, visit here.

Growing Forward: Kayla Thomason

December 2022 FloridAgriculture eNewsletter

Kayla Thomason
YF&R State Leadership Group, District 7

Agriculture runs deep in Kayla Thomason’s blood. Her father managed a fresh citrus packing house for 40 years in St. Lucie County which introduced her to agriculture at a young age. Thomason has fond memories riding around citrus groves and camping out with family amongst the trees. In high school, Thomason began working on research trials for the University of Florida in a citrus postharvest lab. This is what spurred her passion for agriculture.

During her time at the University of Florida, Thomason interned with Syngenta in the plant pathology lab and her passion continued to grow. She graduated from UF with a bachelors in Environmental Management in Ag and Natural Resources in 2012 and went on to pursue a master’s in Agronomy in 2016 and a doctorate in Plant Medicine in 2017.

Upon graduation from UF, Thomason accepted a job as an agronomist for the Sugarcane Growers Cooperative of Florida. Thomason recently accepted a new role as a farm manager for King Ranch at one of their farms in South Florida. She currently grows sugarcane and sweet corn.

Thomason’s involvement with Florida Farm Bureau began when a college friend introduced her to the organization. At the time, her friend was on the state leadership group and encouraged Thomason to attend the Florida Farm Bureau Young Farmers and Ranchers conference. During college, Thomason would volunteer at county events when she went home to visit.

After college, Thomason moved back to St. Lucie County and now sits on her county board. Joining the YF&R Leadership Group seemed like a logical step for Thomason to grow in her leadership skills and involvement in Farm Bureau.

“Farm Bureau has allowed me to network with so many people from around the state,” said Thomason. “I like being part of a group who wants to support their communities and who fight for agriculture to remain a vital part of Florida’s way of life.”

Thomason is proud of her county’s involvement in the community. Every February the St. Lucie County Farm Bureau hosts the Brian Schirard Memorial Clay Shoot. The clay shoot raises money for a scholarship fund that is awarded to high school students every year. In addition to the clay shoot, the county hosts a cattle show fundraiser each December. Named the Kyle Patterson Cattle Extravaganza, this show raises money to provide funds for anyone ages 18-35 that are furthering their career in any agricultural related field.

“It’s rare to find funding for anything other than college,” said Thomason. “I think having an opportunity to help young people develop much needed trade skills are important and I’m proud that we are able to do it.”

As more technology becomes available, agriculture is always evolving. Thomason continues to utilize new technology in her career like precision agriculture that pinpoints the exact amount of fertilizer to apply. Additionally, she has been testing soil moisture probes that will help reduce fuel consumption and resources needed to run irrigation.

“To me, ‘growing forward’ means utilizing new technology and practices to help overcome the many obstacles faced in agriculture so we can be as sustainable and productive as possible.”

Land Grant Partner

December FloridAgriculture eNewsletter

dr angleBy J. Scott Angle

The October annual meeting fostered the continuing development of Maddie Dvorak and Bernie LeFils as Florida agriculture leaders. They brought talent to Orlando. The Florida Farm Bureau Federation (FFBF) gave them opportunity.

Maddie, a senior in the UF/IFAS College of Agricultural and Life Sciences (CALS), won the collegiate division of discussion meet at the FFBF convention. She stood out in a mock committee meeting with her passion for policy to address challenges like how best to connect with part-time farmers.

That is, people like Bernie, who has a small cow-calf operation with his father but earns most of his income as a CPA.

Bernie grew up hearing about Farm Bureau from his grandmother, a longtime state board member. He developed his public speaking skills at FFA competitions as he aspired to attend CALS.

When he got to Gainesville, he served as president of the UF chapter of the Collegiate Farm Bureau. He represented Florida as a national collegiate discussion meet finalist. He served in another FFBF-supported group, CALS ambassadors, and was executive vice president of Alpha Gamma Rho.

For years, Bernie has served the Farm Bureau on its Budget and Economic Advisory Council. He’s a regular at  Florida Farm Bureau Day in Tallahassee.

So he brought to Orlando years of experiences in CALS and FFBF that developed skills he’d deploy in the Young Farmers & Ranchers discussion meet, and we expect he’ll be very competitive in the national competition at the American Farm Bureau Federation meeting in Puerto Rico next month.

Like Bernie’s, Maddie’s journey has been influenced by FFBF and CALS. As a high schooler she participated in the CALS Florida Youth Institute. A highlight of her week was meeting FFBF COO Staci Sims, whom Maddie calls one of her role models. Another was the dawning realization that she wanted a career in public policy.

As Maddie said at the time, “Their (farmers’) job is to produce food. My job is to protect their jobs.” Based on her standout participation at FYI, we sent her to Iowa for the Global Youth Institute held in conjunction with the World Food Prize. In March, FFBF will send her to Jacksonville to compete in the American Farm Bureau’s national collegiate discussion meet.

Like Bernie did when he graduated in 2011, Maddie will earn a degree from our Food and Resource Economics Department. Maddie chose the major because she was told economics is the world’s common language for business and policy, and if she wanted a seat at the table she needed to have something to say and a way to say it.

Bernie speaks that language in advisory council to help FFBF define its positions on estate taxes, changes to the IRS code and tangible property taxes.

Bernie’s been on both our stages, yours in October to collect his winner’s plaque and ours in 2018 with his wife Avery as the CALS Alumni and Friends Horizon Award winners for their outstanding contributions and potential as leaders in the agricultural, natural resource, life science and related industries and professions.

UF/IFAS values FFBF as a partner in providing the places, competitions and mentors for Bernie and Maddie to develop into leaders.

The years our organizations have spent providing Maddie and Bernie with opportunity can yield decades of advocacy for Florida agriculture. Their work in committee rooms can’t help but make the future brighter for those working on farms, in groves and on ranches.

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




In Tallahassee

November 2022 FloridAgriculture eNewsletter

By Madeline Wright and Courtney Larkin, FFB Legislative Affairs Team

The 2022 Election results were extremely positive for Florida Farm Bureau Federation, with 96% of FarmPAC supported candidates winning in the General Election.  More than 7.7 million votes  were cast across the Sunshine State; and Florida Bureau’s FarmPAC supported 43 out of the 45 candidates who will represent agriculture.

“On behalf of all of us at Florida Farm Bureau,” said Legislative Affairs Director Courtney Larkin, “We would like to extend a thank you for contributing to the FarmPAC. The success of our PAC, and our contributions to candidates wouldn’t be possible without your help.”


Historically a swing state, Florida shifted to red. Republicans flipped Miami- Dade County, a district that has not “gone red” for nearly two decades.

In the Senate, FarmPAC supported 10 Republicans and two Democrats.  In the House, FarmPAC supported 26 Republicans and three Democrats. FarmPAC formally endorsed both Governor Ron DeSantis for his reelection, and Senate President Wilton Simpson for Commissioner of Agriculture. The following candidates were supported by FarmPAC:


Governor Ron DeSantis secured his second term in a landslide victory over Congressman Charlie Crist with nearly a 20% margin. This win is the widest margin that Florida has seen in a gubernatorial race.

Former Pasco Farm Bureau President Wilton Simpson, has been elected as Florida’s Commissioner of Agriculture. Senate President Simpson is a friend to agriculture and has been a strong advocate for Florida Farm Bureau in the legislature.

Attorney General Ashley Moody defeated her democratic challenger to secure her position as Attorney General. Attorney General Moody is a former prosecutor and federal judge and was first elected in 2018.

Chief Financial Officer Jimmy Patronis won his reelection campaign with 58% of the vote. CFO Patronis was appointed to the position in 2017 by then Governor Rick Scott, winning reelection in 2018.


In the senate, FarmPAC proudly had a 100% win across the board, with the following candidates being supported:

District 1: Senator Doug Broxson

District 2: Jay Trumbull

District 3: Corey Simon

District 6: Senator Jennifer Bradley

District 9: Senator Keith Perry

District 10: Senator Jason Brodeur

District 11: Blaise Ingoglia

District 16: Senator Darryl Rouson

District 20: Senator Jim Boyd

District 25: Senator Vic Torres

District 27: Senator Ben Albritton

District 28: Senator Kathleen Passidomo


We are proud to have supported so many great candidates for the House, and look forward to working with them as they keep our industry strong.

District 1: Representative Michelle Salzman

District 2: Representative Robert Alexander “Alex” Andrade

District 3: Joel Rudman

District 5: Shane Abbott

District 6: Griff Griffitts

District 7: Representative Jason Shoaf

District 8: Gallop P. Franklin

District 11: Representative Sam Garrison

District 19: Representative Paul Renner

District 22: Representative Charles Wesley “Chuck” Clemons, Sr.

District 23: Representative Ralph E. Massullo, MD

District 26: Representative Keith Truenow

District 35: Representative Fred Hawkins

District 38: Representative David Smith

District 51: Representative Josie Tomkow

District 55: Kevin M. Steele

District 58: Kim Berfield

District 59: Berny Jacques

District 68: Representative Lawrence McClure

District 70: Representative Mike Beltran

District 75: Representative Michael Grant

District 78: Representative Jenna Parsons-Mulicka

District 83: Representative Kaylee Tuck

District 84: Representative Dana Trabulsy

District 85: Representative Toby Overdorf

District 94: Representative Rick Roth

District 103: Representative Robin Bartleman

District 116: Representative Daniel A. Perez

District 117: Representative Kevin Chambliss

For questions on the agricultural candidates or FarmPAC, please contact Courtney Larkin at

Your Land Grant Partner: Dr. Angle

November 2022 FloridAgriculture eNewsletter

By J. Scott Angle

In the near future, a new UF/IFAS hub dedicated to revolutionizing agriculture will help you make a leap forward in farming.

A center for applied artificial intelligence in agriculture will be that hub. Last month we announced our plan for a 19,000-square-foot facility anchored by a workshop for developing precision ag machine prototypes.

GCREC Director Jack Rechcigl and Associate Director Nathan Boyd have been talking this up for some time. They invited me to GCREC about a year ago to present their vision to me and to a council of stakeholders. The council unanimously supported the project, and several members individually urged us to move on this immediately.

Plans call for research and office space as well and areas designed to encourage conversations to build teams for AI research and Extension. That’s important, because while the center will be based at the Gulf Coast Research and Education Center in Balm, it will develop technologies for the entire state, from the Everglades Agricultural Area to the Panhandle to the Tri-County Agricultural Area.

Hillsborough County has already made a $1.5 million commitment to the center. Our advancement team is seeking private support. We’re requesting funding from the legislature in 2023.

The center will be our most important facilities investment in a generation. We’ll need support from Tallahassee and possibly Washington. You can help by supporting our legislative budget request. I hope it will be top of mind for those of you who participate in Florida Farm Bureau Day and the Taste of Florida Agriculture Reception at the Capitol on March 8.

A center will add momentum to a movement. It will be a declaration that Florida’s farmers and agricultural scientists are the vanguard of feeding the world in a more sustainable way. It will be the epicenter of accelerated evolution of agriculture from human-labor-intensive to technology-driven.

We need to do this now. Global spending on smart technologies such as AI and machine learning directed toward agriculture is projected to triple in the next three years. There is enormous interest in scientific advance, giving us the opportunity to employ the land-grant university-industry-government partnership model to make major global impacts.

Help us imagine a future for agriculture that the center will help create, one where technology again keeps Florida globally competitive, producing our own food, employing Floridians, contributing to the local economy, and making Florida the leader in feeding the world.

There have been few moments in the history of UF/IFAS when the way to create the future is so visible and reachable. We have the experts to do it. The center will help unleash their talent and imagination.

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