FFVA members drive home their points to Tallahassee lawmakers

05/07/2013 12:48:00 PM
Lisa Lochridge

Members of FFVA's board of directors and the Emerging Leader Development Program met with legislators and state officials during a two-day "drive-in" to Tallahassee in April. It’s an important event that allows FFVA members to have face time with key legislators on issues that are critical to Florida agriculture.

The packed agenda included visits with Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam, Senate President Don Gaetz and Deputy Secretary Greg Munson of the Department of Environmental Protection.

The yearly visit to the capital has grown substantially during the past couple of years. Traditionally, the event has been a time for FFVA’s Executive Committee to meet with each other and with key legislators. But with the launch of the association’s leadership development program in 2011 and interest from a broader group of FFVA members, this year it involved a contingent of almost 30 participants.

FFVA is fortunate to have concerned, involved members who are willing to take the time to meet and talk with lawmakers, making sure they understand how legislation will affect their ability to farm.

Munson kicked off with an overview of water issues, including the numeric nutrient criteria and Everglades legislation. Mary Ann Gosa of the University of Florida’s Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences briefed the group on the status of IFAS budget negotiations. And Putnam and Assistant Commissioner Mike Joyner joined the group to discuss major issues in the Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services.

Class 3 of the leadership program also met with Susan Nardizzi and Jackie Moalli of the Department of Agriculture’s Fresh From Florida program to hear about its new television ad campaign featuring fresh Florida produce and seafood.

Success at the Capitol

Butch Calhoun, FFVA's director of government relations and a veteran member of the Agriculture Coalition in Tallahassee, gave a briefing on issues of interest to producers. Calhoun discussed bills FFVA supports as well as those the association opposes because they would be detrimental to Florida agriculture.

To that point, the session had gone well for Florida’s grower-shipper community.

“The bills we’re dealing with are in good shape at this stage,” Calhoun told the group.

Subcommittees and committees were due to end their meetings at week’s end, so any bills that hadn’t passed out of those groups would be dead for this session.

By the time this issue of Citrus & Vegetable hits print, the legislative session should have concluded with no major fireworks.

Besides Gaetz, the group met with Sens. Bill Montford, Wilton Simpson and Anitere Flores, and Reps. Steve Crisafulli, Ben Albritton, Matt Caldwell, Halsey Beshears, Katie Edwards, Cary Pigman, Larry Lee, Holly Raschein and Jake Raburn to discuss legislative issues that are important to agriculture.

Washington, D.C., efforts

FFVA President Mike Stuart also informed the group about concerted efforts in Washington to hammer out a guest-worker program for agriculture as part of comprehensive immigration reform. At this writing, the U.S. Senate’s so-called “gang of eight” is set to announce a proposal for broad immigration reform that includes a guest-worker program for the agriculture workforce.

FFVA is a founding member of the Agriculture Workforce Coalition, a national group of organizations that represent a broad cross-section of agricultural employers. As the unified voice of agriculture, the coalition has pushed for legislation that will ensure America’s farms, ranches and other agricultural operations have access to a stable and skilled workforce.

Lisa Lochridge is the director of public affairs for the Florida Fruit & Vegetable Association in Maitland. She can be reached at (321) 214-5206 or lisalochridge@ffva.com.



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