Florida Farm Bureau Closes Out Productive Legislative Session

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FloridaCapitalThe 2016 legislative session ended on Friday, March 11 with seven bills on Florida Farm Bureau’s legislative agenda passing the Legislature. Agricultural producers will receive a $1.1 million sales tax exemption on machinery and equipment used in packing houses. Gov. Rick Scott has already signed into law six of the seven Farm Bureau-backed bills that passed the Legislature.

Florida Farm Bureau continues to be a vocal advocate and leader in Tallahassee, working to lower taxes and reduce regulations on our state’s family farms. Several of Farm Bureau’s legislative successes included bills that aimed to preempt over-regulation by local governments, allow additional opportunities for farmers to diversify and grow their business and lower taxes by providing specific sales tax exemptions.

This year alone, Farm Bureau was a leader to help clarify the definition of agritourism to include on-site civic and ceremonial events in an effort to help agritourism operators in their dealings with local governments. This also encourages family farms to introduce agritourism as an opportunity for supplemental income and to educate the public on where their food comes from.  We also helped streamline the transportation process from farm to market by defining “covered farm vehicle” in statute and exempting farmers from having to acquire a CDL license to travel statewide with their produce.

Florida Farm Bureau also led efforts to make common sense reforms to the Florida Fire Code to exempt pole barns from the Fire Code and allowing other structures occasionally used for agritourism purposes to meet minimal standards while also ensuring public safety.  We also worked with legislative partners to prohibit local governments from assessing fire fees on any agricultural lands and on structures valued at under $10,000.

Florida Farm Bureau worked with our partners at the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services (FDACS) to increase penalties on individuals that knowingly introduce a plant pest or disease to the state. That same legislation also preempts local governments from regulating feed, allows cattle grazing on some conservation lands and allows citrus farmers to retain their Greenbelt classification for up to five years after removing trees affected by citrus greening from their groves.  Farm Bureau also supported legislation that allows farmers to exchange agricultural land for state-owned land for low-impact agriculture.

Finally, Florida Farm Bureau was a strong advocate for the landmark water policy legislation that passed early in the legislative session and was quickly signed into law by Gov. Scott.

The University of Florida’s Institute for Food and Agricultural Sciences (UF/IFAS) and FDACS also had strong budget years, with Gov. Scott approving many of their budget requests along with the state’s $82 billion budget for fiscal year 2016-2017.

For more information on Florida Farm Bureau’s successful legislative session, please visit our Legislative Action Center or read the latest edition of AgWatch, our legislative e-newsletter distributed weekly during session and at least monthly throughout the remainder of the year.

With the conclusion of another legislative session, this promises to be a busy election season, with all 160 state lawmakers on the ballot. All 120 House seats will be in play and because of the redistricting rulings last fall, all 40 Senate seats are on the ballot.  Along with the Presidential race and several constitutional amendments, this year will be an active year for Florida politics.

Florida Farm Bureau and our legislative staff appreciate all of our members who took the time to participate in the legislative process, whether you traveled to Tallahassee for Farm Bureau Legislative Days or contacted your local elected officials in support of our issues, we thank you for your support.  Our success during the 2016 legislative session would not be possible without grassroots advocates like you.