By Gary Cooper
Red tide, blue-green algae, hemp and hurricanes were among the items discussed in recent days during legislative committee meetings in Tallahassee, Florida.
Lawmakers and state officials are getting down to business and looking forward to the start of the legislative session in early March.
Agriculture Commissioner Nikki Fried on Tuesday gave senate agriculture committee members a status report on Florida agriculture, with some pointed comments about the urgent needs of farmers impacted by hurricanes.
Other talks followed with topics ranging from forestry and aquaculture about specific impacts and issues involved in Hurricane Michael’s aftermath in particular.
The house agriculture appropriationssubcommittee on Wednesday featured presentations by representatives of florida fish and wildlife conservation commission on differences between red tide and blue-green algae. Both issues are expected to be front and center in this year’s legislative session, but on Wednesday it was mainly an educational overview and exchange about how these issues presently stand.
Also on Wednesday, the house agriculture and natural resources subcommittee heard presentations on hemp from the new legislative affairs director at the Florida Department of Agriculture, Emily Duda Buckley, followed by a hemp research update from the University of Florida. The respective presentations offered background on hemp laws, its recent farm bill inclusion, its potential for Florida. Buckley also gave committee members a status report on several specific critical Florida farm crops, pointing out among other issues that federal trade agreements like the U.S.-Mexico-Canada Trade Agreement (USMCA). The USMCA continues to hurt Florida fruit and vegetable producers through unfair trade practice.
A refreshing highlight of these committee meetings in both chambers this week was a presentation by Florida FFA state officers about the FFA youth leadership program and the importance of agriculture education in Florida. As always, these state FFA leaders did a great job educating and engaging lawmakers in their discussion.