Florida Farm Bureau’s 2016 Legislative Agenda is set as Session Begins

The 2016 legislative session began Tuesday, Jan. 12. Florida Farm Bureau will once again lead efforts in Tallahassee to protect and strengthen Florida agriculture by lowering taxes and reducing regulations on farmers and ranchers.

Earlier this month, Florida Farm Bureau’s State Board of Directors approved another aggressive legislative agenda focused on keeping agriculture as a major component of the state’s economy and keeping agricultural producers in Florida competitive in the global market. Here’s a breakdown of Farm Bureau’s 2016 legislative agenda:

Water Policy: SB 552 & HB 7005
This legislation establishes a comprehensive, long-term water supply plan for Florida. A statewide water policy that plans for water supply, water quality and water quantity is important to Florida Farm Bureau and our members across the state. Florida Farm Bureau is supportive of the bill as it ensures an adequate water supply for agricultural use and helps protect and restore our natural resources without adding an additional, burdensome regulatory structure. This legislation is sponsored by Sen. Charlie Dean (R-Inverness) and Rep. Matt Caldwell (R-Lehigh Acres) and is ready for a floor vote in both the House and Senate.

Farm Vehicles: SB 1046 & HB 411
A transportation package that provides a statewide CDL exemption and helps modernize Florida’s transportation laws so they mirror the MAP 21 legislation passed by Congress in 2012 is sponsored by Sen. Travis Hutson (R-Palm Coast) and Rep. Halsey Beshears (R-Monticello).

Fire Code and Farm Buildings: SB 822 & HB 431
Legislation that allows for the proper regulation of nonresidential farm buildings occasionally used for assembly purposes is sponsored by Sen. Kelli Stargel (R-Lakeland) and Rep. Jake Raburn (R-Lithia). Specifically, this legislation will:

  • Define “pole barns” in statute and exempt them from the Fire Code;
  • Outline three tiers of use for buildings on farms; and
  • Create a regulatory structure that allows for a common-sense balance for farmers who use nonresidential farm buildings for assembly purposes.

Agritourism: SB 304 & HB 59
This year’s agritourism bill prevents certain county and local governments from enforcing existing ordinances relating to agritourism and clarifies the definition of agritourism to include on-site civic and ceremonial events. This legislation is sponsored by Sen. Kelli Stargel and Rep. Neil Combee (R-Auburndale).

Sales Tax
Gov. Scott and legislative leaders have once again shown interest in continued tax relief for Floridians. Florida Farm Bureau will work to have agriculture included in tax relief measures by including some manufacturing tax cuts for agricultural packing houses and exempting fencing materials from sales tax.

Agriculture Package: HB 749
A general agricultural package has been filed with several provisions that will impact agriculture. This bill will primarily create penalties for people who introduce pests and diseases into the state that could impact agriculture production. Under this bill penalties could rise to the felony level if someone knowingly introduces a pest that results in the declaration of an agricultural emergency.

Florida Farm Bureau supports funding the budget requests for both the University of Florida’s Institute for Food and Agricultural Sciences and the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services to meet the needs of Florida agriculture.

Amendment 1 Funding
Florida Farm Bureau supports the allocation of Amendment 1 funds to better manage land already owned by the state and urges the use of money necessary for existing and ongoing water and environmental projects. Farm Bureau does not support allocating funds for additional land purchases.

As a true grassroots organization, Florida Farm Bureau depends on our members to be the voice of the organization and be true advocates on issues affecting their family farms and businesses. We encourage all of our members to join us in Tallahassee for Farm Bureau’s Legislative Days during the 2016 legislative session. Legislative Days will take place on Tuesday, Feb. 2 and Wednesday, Feb. 3 with the Legislative Briefing Dinner at the Tallahassee Automobile Museum on Feb. 2 at 5:30 p.m. and the popular “Taste of Florida Agriculture” Reception in the Capitol Courtyard on Feb. 3 at 5:00 p.m.

To RSVP for the Legislative Briefing Dinner, please email Christine Scovotto in the Farm Bureau Legislative office at Christine.Scovotto@ffbf.org.