Nov. 4, 2015
Florida is the third largest state in the nation, with a population of nearly 20 million. More than 800 new residents move to the Sunshine State each day. Water issues in our state will remain in the forefront now and well into the 2016 legislative session.
Florida Commissioner of Agriculture Adam Putnam has made it his priority and challenged leadership to take action on water policy to combat the projected “billion-gallon-a-day shortfall” within the next 15 years.
State Sen. Charlie Dean is one of many Tallahassee lawmakers who have embraced that challenge. As sponsor of the water policy bill in the senate, SB 552, preserving the state’s natural resources for future generations, including his three grandchildren, is his top priority.
“It’s our duty as government leaders to manage our water issues. I take it seriously and want to do it right,” said Dean. “I want to make sure the citizens know we aren’t just talking about it. We’re doing something about it,” said Dean.
House and Senate Leadership have made the water bill a priority and expect this bill to pass during the legislative session which convenes Jan. 12, 2016.
Speaker of the House, Steve Crisafulli addressed Florida Farm Bureau members at the 2015 annual meeting in October. “I have 100 percent faith that we can pass a comprehensive water bill this year,” stated Crisafulli.
State Rep. Matt Caldwell will sponsor the House Water Policy bill, HB 7005, during the 2016 Legislative Session. He says there is real commitment from the Legislature to get a comprehensive package across the finish line.
“Water is a critical issue to our state,” said Caldwell. “It’s what our state is all about—having a clean environment we can all enjoy. We have so many natural marvels that attract visitors to want to live here. We have to preserve our natural resources for our future.”
Caldwell pointed out that no one is more passionate about the environment than the farmers and ranchers who work in the soil every day. “They are the first conservationists who work the land and recognize both its economic and intangible value.”
Florida Farm Bureau members believe that sound science should guide lawmakers in their water policy decision making. A comprehensive Water Policy bill will benefit agricultural producers and the environment. As the largest general advocacy group for farmers and ranchers, Florida Farm Bureau will continue to promote water policies that ensure an adequate water supply for agricultural use.
In addition to water and environmental resources, Florida Farm Bureau will be driving many other priorities for farmers and ranchers next session, including proposals that involve agritourism, farm vehicles and modifications to the Florida
fire code as it relates to non- residential farm buildings.
A transportation bill, HB 411, sponsored by state Rep. Halsey Beshears, will help soften regulations for truck drivers who transport agricultural products. Beshears grew up in agriculture and is one of the few legislators who has “dirt under his nails.” He knows firsthand what an impact the trucking regulations have on growers. “Transportation is the crux of it. You can’t sell
anything if you can’t deliver it,” stated Beshears.
Another bill that Florida Farm Bureau will closely monitor is the Fire Code and Ag Buildings bill. The bill will properly regulate agricultural buildings that are used for assembly purposes, such as weddings or special events.
When it comes to making an impact on legislation, whether at the local, state or national level, Florida Farm Bureau relies on the grassroots voice of its members. Beshears is a member of the Jefferson County Farm Bureau and recognizes the impact members have on their legislators. “Members just need to pick up the phone and call. It only takes 10 to 20 quality calls from members representing business and agriculture to make a difference,” said Beshears.
Florida Farm Bureau’s annual Legislative Days will be Feb. 2-3 in Tallahassee. It is an ideal venue for members to network with legislators and voice their concerns on issues that are important to them.
A Legislative Briefing Dinner will be held Feb. 2 at the Automobile Museum and the Taste of Florida Agriculture reception will be at the Capitol Courtyard on Feb. 3. Many state lawmakers will be in attendance.
“Members must make the time to interact with their representatives or senators on issues that are important to them,” said Caldwell. “It has an impact on what they support. It certainly has on me.”
For information on how to get involved and make a difference during the 2016 legislative session, contact your local county Farm Bureau office.
Visit the Legislative Action Center at www.floridafarmbureau.org for a listing of Farm Bureau priority issues or
to contact your state legislator.