Hillsborough County Farm Bureau strives to connect with our legislative delegations at the local, state, and national levels regarding all things agricultural. The collective effort among the county, state, and national Farm Bureaus leads to solutions for agriculturists and rural communities in economic, educational, and social fields. Hillsborough County Farm Bureau is active in the community, legislature, and grassroots of agriculture production, educating and working in various ways to serve as the voice of agriculture.
We are the voice and leader of Hillsborough County and Florida agriculture. We will strive to have our members well informed, educated, and effective at all levels of the organization, as well as with community, legislative, and other strategic alliances. Our services increase the net income of members through economic, social, and educational opportunities Hillsborough County Farm Bureau is one of the 67 county Farm Bureaus under Florida Farm Bureau Federation. Farm Bureau is an independent, non-governmental, voluntary grass-roots organization for farm and ranch families and anyone interested in Agriculture, united for the purpose of analyzing their problems; and by formulation action, seeks to achieve educational improvement, economic opportunity and social advancement, thereby promoting the nation welfare as the Voice of Agriculture.
I am urging each of you to get involved and to become part of the Voice of Florida Agriculture that fully supports Congressional passage of HR 101, the Defending Domestic Produce Production Act. This bill was introduced by U.S. Representative Vern Buchanan (R-Long Boat Key) along with U.S. Senator Marco Rubio (R-FL) and U.S. Representative Al Lawson (D-Tallahassee) earlier this year. This bipartisan bill would correct the adverse trade effects of Mexico on season and perishable Florida produce such as blueberries, strawberries and tomatoes.
To give you an idea on why this bill is vital for specialty crop producers in Florida, consider just fresh tomato production in the Sunshine State since 2000. University of Florida/IFAS researchers have determined tomato production in Florida has fallen from 1.56 billion pounds in 2000 to 950 million pounds in 2015, dropping nearly 40 per cent.
Additionally, Florida specialty crop growers have seen a market share loss approaching 20 per cent to imports from Mexico, resulting in a $2 billion loss annually. If you also consider the added challenges these growers face, such as an adequate labor resource, along with the variables each season of weather, price and other considerations – these are very challenging obstacles that must be met.
Please help us support this important bill. Contact your U.S. senators and representatives, urging their advancement of this proposed legislation. In addition to those lawmakers noted previously, I am pleased to report the involvement and support of Republic Congressmen Gus Bilirakis and Ross Spano, as well as Democratic Representative Kathy Castor. Your thanks to each of them and plea for continued support would be most appreciated.
Our specialty producers are not looking for government handouts, but they do want and deserve a level playing field. If you — please note that I am addressing all IN THE FIELD readers, not just Farm Bureau members –need assistance in locating contact information for your elected officials in our nation’s capital, please feel free to contact us on the web at hcfarmbureau.org or call us at 813-685-9121.
It is important for you to also know that researchers from UF/IFAS assembled very important information on the wide-ranging subsidies the Mexican government is providing to its growers. This spans support from preparing fields and helping to pay for protected agriculture and other grower needs right on through to marketing. Our Florida specialty growers have no such support whatsoever, and that is just not fair and must be remedied. Washington officials at the very highest levels have been given this information and will hopefully respond accordingly as revised international trade agreements are revised.
I would also ask that all of the ladies involved in agriculture that are reading this letter, please access and participate in the “Women in Ag” online survey just launched by the American Farm Bureau Federation. This survey seeks to gauge the goals, aspirations, achievements and needs of women in American agriculture. Again, this is an undertaking for all women in Ag, not just Farm Bureau members. Access to this important survey is available at: fb.org/women.
Dennis Carlton, Jr.