Farm Bureau Ready for 2017 Legislative Session
Following a year when Florida Farm Bureau had every legislative priority pass the Legislature and receive approval from Gov. Rick Scott, 2017 offers a unique opportunity to start over and carefully consider the important and pressing challenges facing our state’s agricultural producers.
With an unprecedented election season ushering in new House and Senate leadership, in addition to 20 new Senators and 46 new House members, the upcoming legislative session will almost definitely be much different than what we have become accustomed to the past couple of years.
Over the last two legislative sessions, Florida agriculture has enjoyed more than $14 million in sales tax exemptions, a stronger Greenbelt law, a reduced regulatory environment, the establishment of an agritourism law, modernizations to the laws governing the transporting of agricultural products and more.
In the committee weeks leading up to the start of the 2017 legislative session; however, Farm Bureau is already playing defense, opposing Senate President Joe Negron’s (R-Palm City) aggressive proposal to purchase 60,000 acres of farmland south of Lake Okeechobee to build a reservoir for water storage. The reservoir is expected to reduce discharges from Lake Okeechobee east and west to the St. Lucie and Caloosahatchee estuaries. This legislation is SB 10 by Sen. Rob Bradley (R-Orange Park) and HB 761 by Rep. Thad Altman (R-Indialantic).
After hearing the testimony of several experts in January and February, the state already owns enough land for water storage south of Lake Okeechobee, and even a reservoir would have been little help following the rain events during the summer of 2016. Moreover, this $2.4 billion proposal does not address the serious need to clean the water coming into Lake Okeechobee from the North, which is the main contributor to the environmental issues like the algae blooms last year.
In addition to opposing this legislation, Florida Farm Bureau will continue working on expanding sales tax exemptions, reducing regulations, protecting Greenbelt and streamlining transportation laws.
Sales Tax Exemptions
Following a Florida Department of Revenue audit of a veterinary supply company last fall, it appears animal health products once thought to be sales tax exempt, are indeed subject to sales taxes. Florida Farm Bureau is supporting legislation to exempt prescription and nonprescription animal health products used to treat poultry and livestock from sales tax.
In response to a St. Petersburg sewage leak and a sinkhole event at a Mosaic property, the Florida Department of Environmental Protection (FDEP) issued a rule in 2016 requiring businesses to report pollution events to the media, placing the burden on businesses to notify the public. Florida Farm Bureau, along with other organizations, challenged that rule and won. During the 2017 legislative session, Farm Bureau will support legislation that provides public transparency of pollution events, but relies on FDEP to publicly report those events instead of placing that burden on private businesses.
Florida Farm Bureau will support legislation expanding the travel radius of trucks with restricted farm tags. Currently, farmers can get these restricted tags for vehicles exclusively used to haul agricultural products at reduced fees, but are limited to a 150 mile radius. Farm Bureau supports expanding this statewide.
Every year, agricultural producers become more concerned with the statutory requirements that deal with trespassing on agricultural property. Currently, Florida law requires landowners to place posted signs every 500 feet or paint the words “No Trespassing” on posts or trees every 100 feet. In order to simplify this law and make it easier for landowners to post their property, Farm Bureau is supporting a proposal to allow a 1-inch by 8-inch orange paint stripe to properly post property.
Florida Farm Bureau will host our members in Tallahassee for Legislative Days next week. This year’s day of advocacy at the Capitol will be held daily the first week of the legislative session, March 7 and 8 in Tallahassee. Register online at www.FloridaFarmBureau.org today to attend. For up-to-date information on the 2017 legislative session, please sign-up for our legislative e-newsletter, AgWatch, under the State Advocacy page of www.FloridaFarmBureau.org.