(Tallahassee, FL/Sept. 20, 2021-FDACS) — Last week, Agriculture Commissioner Nikki Fried and the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services (FDACS) submitted the department’s Legislative Budget Request (LBR) for Fiscal Year 2022-2023.
“Despite the challenges of operating through a continuing pandemic, our core mission remains the same: to safeguard the public and support Florida agriculture. Our budget priorities are solutions-oriented and critical not only to our department’s success, but also to our state,” said Commissioner Fried. “Funding these common-sense and fiscally-responsible priorities will save lives and property by supporting our wildland firefighters and agricultural law enforcement officers; protecting and improving our water sources; ensuring Florida’s agriculture industry remains globally competitive in the face of both ongoing and new challenges, and fostering the burgeoning hemp and hemp extract inhalation industries capable of creating billions in economic potential.”
The FDACS LBR totals an estimated $150 million and consists of approximately $31 million in General Revenue funds and $119 million in State Trust Funds, including $11 million in Federal Grants funding. This common-sense, fiscally responsible budget implements the department’s vision to keep Florida growing, meeting the needs of our state’s agriculture community, consumers, and families. Some highlights of the FDACS LBR include:
Agricultural Law Enforcement: Law Enforcement Officer Base Rate of Pay Increase
$2.9 million in General Revenue to raise the base rate of pay for Agricultural Law Enforcement Officers to $41,918 in order to compete with other state and local law enforcement officer base pay rates in Florida. This issue also addresses compression related to the base rate increase. FDACS Office of Agricultural Law Enforcement (OALE) is a fully accredited law enforcement agency tasked with protecting Florida’s agriculture and its consumers. OALE conducts vehicle inspections 24 hours a day, 365 days a year to ensure the safety and protection of Florida’s food supply and agriculture industry. In addition, OALE investigates crimes involving the detection of illegal gas pump skimming devices and associated profit chains, credit card theft, unlawful conveyance of fuel, unscrupulous motor vehicle repair shops, animal cruelty, unlicensed security guards, and unlicensed repossession agents, as well as conducting wildfire/arson investigations. Furthermore, OALE maintains a domestic security footprint, participating in all seven regional Domestic Security Task Forces statewide and partners with federal, state and local law enforcement agencies to assist in interoperability, communication, and data sharing.
Florida Forest Service: Firefighter and Firefighter Support Pay Increase
$2.99 million in the Land Acquisition Trust Fund to provide $2,500 pay increases to 932 firefighter and firefighter support positions within the Florida Forest Service. Over the last three years, Florida Forest Service personnel responded to an average of 4,672 fires that burned a total of 147,169 acres. Florida’s Wildland Firefighters and Fire support staff respond 24 hours a day, 365 days a year in harsh conditions to protect Florida’s citizens from wildfires.
Florida Forest Service: Rural and Family Lands Protection Program
$20 million in the Land Acquisition Trust Fund for the Rural and Family Lands Protection Program. This program is administered by the Florida Forest Service and focuses on maintaining the agricultural land base in Florida through the acquisition of permanent agricultural land conservation easements.
Florida Forest Service: Climate Adaptation and Mitigation
$2 million in the Land Acquisition Trust Fund for the second of five years of the Sequestering Carbon and Protecting Florida Land Program. This program provides targeted tree planting on forest lands to reduce carbon dioxide emissions and enhance the capacity of Florida’s forests to provide a multitude of ecosystem services.
Agricultural Products Marketing: Florida Agricultural Promotional Campaign
$8.74 million in General Revenue funding for the Florida Agricultural Promotional Campaign. Without the Fresh From Florida program, Florida’s producers would face a significant disadvantage in competitively promoting their products, particularly in light of producer losses due to COVID-19 and on-going trade issues. Given the $22 return on investment for every $1 invested, this funding is a sound investment that must continue without interruption to maintain consumer awareness and loyalty to Florida grown products.
Agricultural Water Policy:
$10 million in the Land Acquisition Trust Fund to address agricultural nutrient reduction and water retention projects outside of the Lake Okeechobee Watershed, including critical spring sheds statewide.
$5 million in the Land Acquisition Trust Fund to address agricultural nutrient reduction and water retention projects at the basin, sub-basin and farm levels in the Lake Okeechobee Watershed, including cost share programs for precision agriculture such as technology-based fertilizer applications, applicable cover crop rotations, and land management tools.
4 million in the Land Acquisition Trust Fund to provide 27 FTE to fulfill increased implementation and verification requirements, accelerated enrollment efforts to comply with the Department of Environmental Protection’s Basin Management Action Plans (BMAPs), and updates to the rules governing the BMP program.
$3.3 million in the Land Acquisition Trust Fund for the first-year establishment of the BMP research plan as required by the Clean Waterways Act.
$962,000 in the Land Acquisition Trust Fund for BMP education and outreach efforts to inform producers within the agriculture BMP program of statutory requirements related to section 403.067, Florida Statutes.
$5 million in the Land Acquisition Trust Fund to provide funding for cost-share projects focused on priority activities in areas covered by the DEP BMAPs.
Plant Pest and Disease Control: Citrus Issues
$8 million for citrus greening research, funded in Agricultural Emergency Eradication Trust Fund. Funding will be passed through to the Citrus Research and Development Foundation, which operates as a Direct Support Organization of the University of Florida. Budget for this issue resides in the Division of Fruit and Vegetables because that is where the research box taxes are administered.
$1.45 million in GR for Citrus Crop Decline Supplemental Funding to support the Citrus Inspection, crop forecasting and Citrus Budwood program resulting from the continued decline in estimated crop yield.
Division of Licensing Workload Issue
$5.7 million in Division of Licensing Trust Fund to address workload issues in the Bureau of License Issuance and Customer Call Center operations. This request would fund 83 FTEs to boost capacity to handle the continued increasing demand for Concealed Weapons licenses as well as to address associated call center volume and customer wait times.
Office of Energy:
$3.5 million in the Federal Grants Trust Fund to provide authority needed to secure USDOE and other federally funded energy initiatives.
State Hemp Program:
To implement proper regulatory oversight and to support efficient and accurate laboratory testing, this request includes $3.2 million, $1.9 million of which is trust fund authority, to support the state hemp program.
$1.3 million in General Revenue for the Division of Food Safety, per s. 581.217, F.S. inclusion of the term “inhalation” (HB0921), to inspect establishments selling and manufacturing vaping materials, as well as conduct laboratory testing for compliance of products consisting of or containing vaping materials and ensuring no unsafe contaminants or additives are present. The request supports 10 FTE necessary to perform inspection, laboratory and operational responsibilities related to inhalable products.
$1.9 million in General Inspection Trust Fund for the Division of Food Safety to inspect retail establishments selling hemp extract intended for human ingestion. The request supports 15 FTE necessary to continue to perform inspection responsibilities related to ingestible products.
Source Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services