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Florida Legislation Wrap Up from FFAA

Dan General

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Florida state lawmakers wrapped up the 2022 legislative session earlier this month and voted on several bills related to agriculture. Among them is the Nutrient Application Rates Bill, which the Florida Fertilizer & Agrichemical Association (FFAA) says provides citrus growers a pathway to use site-specific nutrient application rates developed by a Certified Crop Advisor with a 4R Nutrient Management Specialty certification.

According to the FFAA, growers who choose to utilize the site-specific nutrient rates must be enrolled and implement Best Management Practices adopted by the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services (FDACS). That bill was passed and is headed to the governor’s desk for a signature.

On the list that didn’t pass, SB 1128/HB 579 Aquatic Plant Management. The FFAA says it would have authorized a pilot project for the mechanical harvesting of aquatic vegetation. The FFAA expects the issue of aquatic herbicide application continues to be a flashpoint for environmental activists and various stakeholder groups.

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(FFAA/Bartow, FL/March 22, 2022) — Florida legislators  returned to Tallahassee on March 14th to vote on the record-setting $112.1 billion FY 2022-23 budget. For those keeping track, that was Day 63 of the annual 60-day session.

Throughout Florida’s 2022 Legislative Session, FFAA has provided updates on bills of interest to our members.  Attached to this email is a complete list (and short explanation) of pertinent bills we were following during the 2022 session. FYI:  3,685 bills were filed for consideration during the 2022 session. Only 285 bills passed and now await action by Governor Ron DeSantis. 

On the budget front, the Legislature added $8.9 Billion total aggregated funding to the state reserve fund. The breakdown on reserve funding is as follows: $5.3 Billion in Unallocated General Revenue; $3.1 Billion in the Budget Stabilization Fund; and $0.5 Billion in the Emergency Preparedness and Response Fund. (If you want more ag-related budget details, please see FFAA’s Week 9 report.)

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One good bill that passed was CS/CS/SB 1000: Nutrient Application Rates

The final version of this legislation, which is headed to Gov. DeSantis for signing, provides citrus growers a pathway to use site specific nutrient application rates developed by a Certified Crop Advisor with a 4R Nutrient Management Specialty certification. Growers who choose to utilize the site-specific nutrient rates must be enrolled and implementing Best Management Practices adopted by the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services. In addition, CS/CS/SB 1000 extended the sunset provisions for fees collected under Chapter 576 another 10 years. Kudos to Sen. Ben Albritton (R-District 26 ) and Rep. Lawrence McClure (R-District 58) who championed this legislation.

As important as what passed, it’s also interesting to note there were some bills that didn’t pass this year. These ideas may resurface in future Sessions so it’s worth a quick mention now.

SB 1128/HB 579 Aquatic Plant Management Sen. Gayle Harrell (R-District 25)/Rep. Lauren Melo (R-District 80)

As amended, this legislation authorized a pilot project for mechanical harvesting of aquatic vegetation. While this bill passed the full House of Representatives on a 114-0 vote,  the Senate Companion (SB 1128 by Sen. Gayle Harrell) died in committee. So, while the legislation ultimately did not pass the Legislature in 2022, the issue of aquatic herbicide application continues to be a flash point for environmental activists and various stakeholder groups. Click here to review CS/CS/HB 579.

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SB 1612/HB 1289 Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services Sen. Loranne Ausley (D-District 3)/Rep. Ramon Alexander (D-District 8)

The omnibus Department of Agriculture agency package contained a myriad of “clean-up” provisions within the Department’s authorizing statutes.

Of interest to FFAA members were three sections of the bill:

  • Updates to Chapter 487.021 F.S. which would have created a new fumigation category for “raw agricultural commodities”;
  • Chapter 576.011 which updated the department’s definition of “Control Release Fertilizers”; and, Chapter 576.071 relating to the setting of Commercial Values;
  • Extending to 2032 the Department’s authority to collect and use the fees listed in Chapter 576.045 which were to sunset in 2022. (Keep reading for more on the tonnage fee issue.)

This legislation did not pass this session. In fact, neither the Senate nor he House bill got a single committee hearing.

2 Additional Budget Items to Note

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The first issue relates to the 2022 sunset provision on the collection of fertilizer fees as detailed in 576.045 F.S.

Tucked into the budget implementing bill is language which allows the department to continue to collect the fees for the 2022-23 fiscal year. This language is a stop gap for the next year in the unlikely event that the Governor vetoes CS/CS/SB 1000 which extended the sunset provisions of these fertilizer fees.

Another Department issue to highlight deals specifically with the Office of Agricultural Water Policy (OAWP).

FFAA members may recall SB 712, the Clean Waterways Act, which took effect July 1, 2020. Among other things, SB 712 requires FDACS to conduct implementation verification visits and to review and retain certain records relating to nutrient applications data from producers enrolled in Best Management Practices. In order to more efficiently and effectively meet the spirit and intent of the law, OAWP requested authority this Session to hire 27 additional staff positions; the proposed budget only provides authority to hire 10 new staff positions. 

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Looking ahead, the summer and fall will be full of campaign events and a plethora of broadcast and digital media campaign ads. Keep in mind that redistricting means you may have a new Member of the Legislature representing you after the November general election results are certified.

Take advantage of this election campaign cycle to develop a relationship with the candidates! Furthermore, the entire Cabinet is up for election including the Commissioner of Agriculture and Consumer Services.

Now is the time to develop the relationships, to plant the seeds for future harvests! 

If you are so inclined, please make a donation in support of FFAA’s political committee: Florida Agribusiness for Responsible Government (FARG).

Checks (corporate or personal) in any amount can be sent payable to FARG in care of FFAA, P.O. Box 587, Bartow, FL 33831-0587. 

These funds are used to support Cabinet candidates and state House and Senate candidates who will wield influence regarding Florida agribusiness issues. 

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With bills and the budget passed and headed to Gov. DeSantis for his consideration, we wait on whether there will be any vetoes. Unless important ag issues are in jeopardy or vetoed, this will be the last regular FFAA 2022 Florida Legislative Session report. Many thanks to FFAA lobbyist Jim Spratt for his efforts this year on FFAA’s behalf!

And, Thank You! for being FFAA members and allies. We appreciate what you do for FFAA and Florida’s ag industries!

As always, warm Florida regards,

Mary C. Hartney
President
Florida Fertilizer & Agrichemical Association