By Kenneth Parker
Even though it’s summer and family vacation time, not everyone is away and there’s a lot of business taking place locally, in Tallahassee and in Washington that is having an impact on agriculture – some good and some not so good. Our state legislature’s special session is over and Farm Bureau considers it to have been a “memorable” one. Following a regular legislative session that has been termed the least progressive in two decades, Florida’s farmers and ranchers have plenty to celebrate at the end of the special session – tax relief, research and education funding and funding for essential water and environmental projects.
More information on the results of that special session from agriculture’s perspective is available at www.floridafarmbureau.org. While the news is mostly good for our industry, there are some troubling items, among them the Governor’s veto of continued funding for the UF/IFAS program focusing on the control of invasive plants and insects at the Indian River Research and Education Center in Fort Pierce. That quarantine facility is a highly secure lab where scientists conduct research on biological controls for invasive species.
In the Field has recently published an article about Dr. Kevin Folta, a UF/IFAS horticultural sciences professor, and his efforts to bring sound scientific information about genetically modified organisms (GMOs) to the forefront. He and two of his graduate students just returned from Washington, D.C. where they participated in a U.S. House Science Committee hearing where one of the topics was GMOs. We applaud their efforts to help close the significant gap between scientific facts and public perception.
Also in Washington, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency released its new “clean water” rule last month. Unfortunately, EPA did not listen to the majority of state and local governments, businesses and groups representing almost every part of the American economy, including farmers and ranchers to go back to the drawing board and craft a rule that won’t cripple agriculture. American Farm Bureau is helping lead the charge to have Congress step in and check what has been termed EPA’s “blatant overreach” with this new rule.
Please read the article in this issue about Michelle Grimmer who with her husband Kenny and their young adult children, Chad and Chrissy, operate a cow/calf operation in our area. Michelle is a hard-working, volunteer voice of agriculture – particularly interested in helping tell the story about beef. She was recently selected Outstanding CattleWoman of the Year by the Florida Cattlemen’s Association for her untiring efforts over the years.
There is also a story in this edition about a small expenditure we would like County Administrator Mike Merrill to add to the upcoming budget. That’s $28,000 to help fund a Small Farms Extension Agent. If after reading the article, you would like to see that happen, let your county commissioner and Mr. Merrill know. It would be very helpful to have that agent working with our small farmers once again.
Lastly, if you are not a member of Farm Bureau, I ask that you consider membership for your family. The modest fee associated with family membership in Farm Bureau is a great deal and your active involvement will be beneficial to both your family and our industry. If your family is already part of our Farm Bureau family, please consider suggesting membership to your friends. To learn more, please call 813/685-9121 for more information.
Kenneth Parker – President