Florida agriculture took advantage of a unique opportunity to list their concerns and priorities for the 2018 Farm Bill last Saturday before a contingent of the U.S. House Committee on Agriculture. Eleven members of the Committee, along with staff, traveled to Gainesville to kick off the first of five Listening Sessions throughout the country as they begin Farm Bill discussions. The last Farm Bill was passed in 2014.
Flanked by his Georgia counterpart, Florida Farm Bureau President John Hoblick offered an opening statement addressing Florida’s concerns, including the need for adequate invasive pest and disease prevention, conservation programs, federal crop insurance, and Specialty Crop Block Grants. President Hoblick also requested attention to the ongoing issues of NAFTA renegotiations and farm labor concerns.
“Frankly, given the diversity and breadth of Florida agriculture, there is no better place to start this conversation,” started President Hoblick. “From avocados and tomatoes in South Florida to satsuma production in Monticello, from the generations-old dairies in Okeechobee to experimenting with new crops such as olives, artichokes and citrus alternatives, Florida agriculture cannot be matched in its diversity and uniqueness.”
Following statements from both state Farm Bureau leaders, a couple of hours was devoted to general public comments, in which a wide array of agricultural issues were mentioned, ranging from dairy labor issues to citrus greening research to Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program funding. The breadth of issues reflects the number of topics and programs covered under Farm Bill legislation, which currently consists of 12 different titles costing $956 billion over 10 years.
The event was held on the University of Florida campus. After the session came to a close, the Congressional members spent the rest of the day touring production agriculture in and around Alachua County.
“Because of its diversity, Florida agriculture is resilient but also fragile,” noted President Hoblick. “The House Ag Committee must keep this mind as they craft the 2018 Farm Bill.”