In February, Florida Farm Bureau’s State Board of Directors approved its legislative agenda for the upcoming legislative session. With 2019 being a transition year–the state welcomes a new Governor, Cabinet, House Speaker and Senate President–Florida Farm Bureau is assessing each chambers’ priorities and how they will work with each other and the Governor to pass good legislation.
Florida Farm Bureau remains focused and committed to supporting agricultural producers and family farms across the state to keep agriculture strong:
Hurricane Michael Relief and Recovery
Hurricane Michael devastated communities in the Florida Panhandle and caused more than $1.5 billion in damage to agriculture in the region. Farm Bureau will be working to promote policies to help farmers and ranchers in the area recover, including:
- Securing sales tax exemptions to rebuild damaged structures and fences.
- Providing less-than-perpetual conservation easements for timber and pasture lands.
- Securing debris removal, clean-up and reforestation funding.
- Increasing BMP cost-share funding to help replace damaged irrigation systems with more efficient units.
Gov. Ron DeSantis and the Florida Legislature have made it clear that water and environmental issues will be a focus of the 2019 legislative session, especially responding to the blue-green algae and red tide outbreaks. Florida Farm Bureau will work to ensure that any funding and policy changes are directed to science-based measures that have a direct and positive impact on water quality and quantity. Specifically, we support the following measures:
- Adequate funding for the Office of Agricultural Water Policy.
- Funding for the construction of emergency estuary protection wells within the Northern Everglades to help reduce discharges from Lake Okeechobee.
- Appropriate funding for storage and treatment of water on public lands north of Lake Okeechobee.
- Cost-share funding for septic-to-sewer conversion and/or the replacement of existing systems with advanced on-site technologies in strategic locations.
- Funding to expedite repairs to the Herbert Hoover Dike while encouraging the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to increase water storage in the lake.
Constitutional Amendment Process
Last year revealed several long-term flaws within Florida’s constitutional amendment process, highlighted by the Constitution Revision Commission (CRC). In response, there are several pieces of legislation filed that support Farm Bureau’s policy goal of making the constitutional amendment process more deliberative:
- Increasing the threshold to pass an amendment on the ballot from 60 percent to 66 percent;
- Eliminating the Constitution Revision Commission; and
- Limiting all amendments and proposals to a single-subject requirement.
Oppose Mandatory E-Verify
Florida Farm Bureau will oppose measures that require Florida businesses to use the flawed federal E-Verify employment system. We will work with a coalition that includes business, hospitality, construction and other groups to defeat or amend this proposal to reduce its negative effects on the business community.
Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services
Florida Farm Bureau looks forward to working with new Commissioner of Agriculture Nikki Fried to secure important and necessary funding for programs that are essential to the success of agriculture in our state, including:
- Fresh From Florida
- Office of Agricultural Water Policy
- Rural and Family Lands Conservation Program
Florida Farm Bureau has been a long-time supporter of the UF/IFAS budget, as those funds directly support our state’s family farms and the research, Extension and education involved in the preserving future viability of agriculture. Over the last two years, their budget has been cut significantly. This year, Farm Bureau will help support UF/IFAS budget requests that include:
- Workload Funding
- Stem, Workforce and Student 4-H Programs
- Aquaculture, Geomatics and Horticulture Research and Education
- Tropical Research and Education Center (TREC)
- Immokalee Student Research Fields
If you are are interested in advocating for agriculture, come advocate with us in Tallahassee, March 5-6, at the state Capitol.