Legislative, regulatory issues kept FFVA busy this year

12/10/2012 03:34:00 PM
Lisa Lochridge

In this year-end issue of Citrus & Vegetable Magazine, it seems only fitting that we take a look back on FFVA’s efforts on behalf of its members. This is only a small sampling of our activities and accomplishments this past season. To get a closer look, you can view our 2012 Highlights video at https://vimeo.com/48844702.

Subhead: Legislative successes

The 2012 legislative session in Tallahassee was a success for agriculture. Most of FFVA’s priority bills passed, and all of the bills the association opposed died. Despite a very tight budget year, legislators passed a sales tax exemption for electricity used by non-farm packinghouses.

Growers also won an exemption from limits on operation hours for farm vehicle drivers during a state of emergency. Another victory was the general agriculture bill, which keeps local governments from charging stormwater fees on farm operations and allows the use of off-road diesel for citrus harvesting equipment.

With new leadership coming into power in both state chambers this fall, FFVA is committed to working to protect the interests of Florida’s growers. Immigration could rise to the surface again as a major issue.

The association continued its leadership role in the Specialty Crop Farm Bill Alliance, a coalition of more than 120 agricultural groups from across the country. With massive federal budget cuts looming, the alliance has worked hard to protect the investment Congress first made in specialty crops in the 2008 Farm Bill.

FFVA and the alliance will continue to urge passage of a bill before year’s end that safeguards the priorities of specialty crops.

Suibhead: Labor Relations Division

An increasing number of Florida growers rely on FFVA's Labor Relations Division to help them access the U.S. Department of Labor’s H-2A guest-worker program.

For the 2011-12 growing season, FFVA filed 34 applications for a total of 4,194 workers as well as numerous transfers and extensions. In addition, FFVA subsidiary company, Florida East Coast Travel Services Inc., provides workforce solutions for farm and non-farm employers.

FLECTS served more than 330 agricultural employers in 18 states in the past year. Between Jan. 1 and July 31, the service processed 2,259 H-2A farmworkers, with another 3,100 scheduled to be processed through the end of 2012.

The association took part in congressional office visits as part of the National Council of Agricultural Employers’ annual meeting in February. The goal of the meetings was to ensure that members of Florida’s congressional delegation remain fully aware of the devastating effect any E-Verify legislation would have on the industry and the economy of the state.

FFVA made clear that any potential E-Verify legislation must be accompanied by reform of the guest-worker program if agriculture is to remain viable.

The association helped arrange a farm tour for Southwest Florida Water Management District staff in February to show how cost-share funding is helping to reduce impacts on natural resources and increase efficiencies for growers.

It showcased the FARMS and MiniFARMS programs, the mobile irrigation lab, the Agricultural Ground and Surface Water Management program, and the Automatic Meter Reading Pilot Project.

Key water policies and programs were the topic of a May regional meeting sponsored by FFVA in Hillsborough County.

The meeting brought together growers and others in the Southwest Florida Water Management District with agency decision-makers and researchers to discuss the latest water issues. Topics included ag programs in the water management district, new developments concerning numeric nutrient criteria and upcoming changes designed to streamline the districts' water permitting process.

Subhead: Pesticide registration help

Third Party Registrations Inc., an FFVA subsidiary, secured in December 2011 a Special Local Need [24(c)] registration for Dual Magnum Herbicide for pre-emergence weed control on root vegetables and tuberous and corm vegetable crop groups.

The labels are obtained via the third-party process primarily because of liability concerns by the registrant that would otherwise preclude registration of a particular use. This is a service available only to members of FFVA.

Easing trade barriers with Canada

On the marketing front, FFVA is a key contributor to the U.S.-Canada Regulatory Cooperation Council, which released its Joint Action Plan in January.

The plan ultimately will help reduce trade barriers between the countries, in turn lowering costs to consumers and businesses and creating economic opportunities for companies on both sides of the border.

FFVA has focused its efforts on plan components that affect agricultural trade, including common approaches to food safety, financial protection for produce sellers and mutual reliance of food-testing results.

The association’s involvement will help build regulatory cooperation between the United States and Canada, foster ongoing alignment and prevent future unnecessary regulatory differences between the two countries.

Find out how you can be part of this team that is working to ensure the strength and sustainability of specialty crop agriculture. You connect; we serve. Learn more at ffva.com.

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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