Recognizing the economic impact of Florida’s agricultural industry and the undeniable connection between environmental and agricultural laws to many of Florida’s key industries, AIF formed its Environmental Sustainability and Agricultural Council. We must be good stewards of our land and water resources, and AIF and its members will lead the way in protecting those resources.
AIF SUPPORTS the critical functions and mission of the Office of Agricultural Water Policy within the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services. To accomplish their mission, funding should be fully restored to ensure that implementation of Best Management Practices continues and, where appropriate, cost-share programs are available to assist landowners with the adoption of new technologies and cost-prohibitive practices.
AIF SUPPORTS $12 million in state funding for applied research which will allow growers to implement the suite of horticultural, mechanical and management strategies designed to mitigate citrus greening. The applied research approach is the next critical step in the long battle against the devastating impacts from citrus greening.
AIF SUPPORTS the expansion of sales tax exemptions to include all items used on a farm in the production of agricultural products. These include, but are not limited to, fence materials, trailers used by farmers, and those trailers specifically dedicated to moving agricultural products and other items integral to farm operations.
AIF SUPPORTS Commissioner of Agriculture Nikki Fried’s budgetary request for $75 million for the Rural and Family Lands Protection Program in our state. The Rural and Family Lands Protection Program establishes a lessthan- fee acquisition of the property’s development rights while the land remains on the local tax roll, is managed by the private land owner, and allows agricultural production activities to continue.
AIF SUPPORTS Governor Desantis’ environmental plan, which includes providing $2.5 billion for Everglades Restoration to complete the existing backlog of projects identified in the CERP, providing support to communities within the Lake Okeechobee, Caloosahatchee and St. Lucie watersheds to complete septic to sewer transitions, increasing the number of agreements with landowners to hold water on their lands (especially north, east and west of the lake), continuing renovation of the Tamiami Trail, increasing funding for agricultural BMP cost-share programs, and expanding utilization of deep-well injection and reservoirs north of Lake Okeechobee to mitigate nutrients entering the system.
AIF SUPPORTS funding sound science-based programs and projects to improve the water quality and water quantity of Florida’s major first-magnitude springs. Florida has an outstanding water quality toolbox with the Total Maximum Daily Load (TMDL) program and the requirements for Minimum Flows and Levels (MFLs). AIF SUPPORTS Governor DeSantis’ proposed $50 million funding for Springs Recovery efforts. AIF endorses efforts by farmers to use “Best Management Practices” developed by the Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services as a means of reducing any environmental impacts of their operations.
It is estimated the demand for water resources is projected to grow by a minimum of 17% in the next 20 years to roughly 7.5 billion gallons per day. In a recent study, the Office of Economic and Demographic Research (EDR) determined the estimated costs to meet the increased demand to be between $1.6-2.2 billion over the same time frame. Absent the availability of a reliable water supply to meet the future demands, Florida’s economy will stagnate.
AIF SUPPORTS efforts to dedicate funding to meet Florida’s water supply needs through the utilization of public/private partnerships, and to dedicate state funding or other innovative approaches which would solve the problem without creating new taxes of Florida business, residents and visitors.
AIF SUPPORTS Governor Desantis’ commitment to stop the Lake Okeechobee discharges, to identify scientific research exploring causes and contributors to red tide and blue-green algae, and encourage the Corps of Engineers to develop a Lake Okeechobee Regulation Schedule (LORS) that works for all water users around Lake Okeechobee.
AIF SUPPORTS the following project and programmatic objectives below to achieve the restoration goals:
AIF SUPPORTS legislation, funding and other assistance from the federal and state governments to help Florida’s panhandle recover from the impacts of Hurricane Michael, including programs which provide a sales-tax exemption for material used to rebuild agricultural and timber operations, as well as encourage debris clean-up, reforestation, and invasive pest control. In addition, funding for the utilization of less than perpetual easements as contemplated in the Rural and Family Lands Protection Act to help ensure the we maintain strong working agriculture and forest lands in Florida’s panhandle.
AIF SUPPORTS legislation which authorizes and funds the Florida Department of Environmental Protection to administer a grant program enabling the transition of septic tanks to waste water treatment systems, specifically within areas discharging into Lake Okeechobee, the Indian River Lagoon, the St. Lucie or Caloosahatchee watersheds, or the Florida first and second order magnitude spring sheds.
AIF SUPPORTS legislation which increases Florida’s water supply by encouraging and providing incentives for greater utilization of reclaimed water, direct and indirect potable technology, as well as other alternative water supplies where appropriate, that are both technologically and economically feasible as alternatives to traditional ground and surface water sources. AIF also supports efforts to allow the owners of surface water storage projects providing water resource benefits to be eligible for a consumptive use permit for 50 years.
AIF SUPPORTS the development, identification and commitment of dedicated funding to build, upgrade or replace water infrastructure which provides sufficient amounts of water to all users, otherwise Florida will not be in a position to meet future demand. It takes seven years to plan, design, build and permit a major new water facility. Experts consistently opine that Florida’s best bet to achieving water security are alternative water supply projects including reclaimed water projects, desalination plants, aquifer storage and recovery, reservoirs, water conservation, and similar tools. States with an adequate water supply will have a head start on future economic development and jobs.
AIF SUPPORTS legislation which protects private property rights. Florida must improve the predictability of the regulatory processes related to capital investment. AIF will continue to lead efforts to protect and strengthen laws such as The Bert J. Harris Private Property Rights Act, which protects property owners from government “takings.” In addition, AIF will continue to lead efforts to protect property owners from government actions which unreasonably limit land use flexibility or unduly reduces the value of privately owned lands.
AIF SUPPORTS legislation addressing the patchwork of inconsistent, unscientific and arbitrary county and municipal ordinances related to fertilization of urban turf, lawns and landscapes. AIF will continue to lead efforts to ensure sound science is the foundation of fertilizer use policies to protect Florida’s environment and provide predictable guidelines for residential users and businesses without having to navigate through arbitrary and emotionally-driven local government ordinances.
AIF SUPPORTS preserving the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services exclusive authority to implement Florida Pesticide and Worker Safety Laws, including licensing, testing, and inspection activities designed to protect workers, the public and our natural system.
AIF SUPPORTS strengthening the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services (FDACS) leadership on the development and adoption of sound science-based best management practices for fertilizer, nutrient and irrigation management in agricultural operations.
AIF OPPOSES legislation which requires arbitrary pesticide or fertilizer formulations, application black-out periods and authorizes local jurisdictions to implement rules based on emotional viewpoints as opposed to sound science.
AIF OPPOSES legislation which creates new taxes on plastics, paper and other recyclable products to help pay for recycling efforts. This tax is unnecessary as a majority of Florida’s cities and counties have effective curbside recycling programs. Forcing Florida’s families to pay even more at stores with no substantive improvement to our environment does not make economic or environmental sense.
AIF SUPPORTS efforts to expand and improve curbside recycling programs in the state, including access to curbside collection for more residents, initiatives to improve the quality of recycled materials and programs, and incentives to encourage the use of recycling programs.
AIF OPPOSES legislation which would create a deposit tax on beverage containers. These costly programs undermine our existing recycling programs and add significant costs and burdens for Florida families who would have to bring empty containers to designated locations to get their deposit back.
AIF OPPOSES legislation which would create new taxes or fees on the production or use of recyclable plastics. Highvalue recyclable plastics like PET and HDPE bottles represent an important source of revenue for Florida recyclers and are needed to fill strong demand for their use in new products. Fees on these materials would simply raise the cost of living for Florida consumers with no environmental benefit.
As consumer preference, urbanization, and pests and diseases continue to challenge traditional crops, agricultural producers are constantly exploring new crops which can be grown in Florida. In recent years, Florida has seen a significant increase in the commercial production of blueberries and olive trees and, given the public demand and new programs within the U.S. Farm Bill, growers are exploring hemp as an alternative crop.
AIF SUPPORTS legislation which allows Florida’s farmers the ability to explore new and emerging agricultural markets and provides adequate research funding for the University of Florida Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences and Florida A&M to explore cropping systems, pest and disease concerns, and potential markets for these new crops.
AIF SUPPORTS legislation which updates and improves Florida’s Rural Economic Development programs including funding for the Rural Infrastructure Grant program which allows rural communities to get assistance for economic development projects designed to create jobs and improve those communities.