We had a big win right off the bat with the passage of the water policy bill driven by Commissioner Putnam and Speaker Crisafulli. FCA focused on this bill in the 2015 session and continued to monitor and support it in 2016. It provides a number of improvements for agriculture including protection against having a consumptive use permit allocation reduced during the term of the permit. By ending the old “Use it or Lose it” approach to consumptive use permits, producers can now focus on conservation without running the risk of having their permitted allocation reduced during the term of the permit if they use less than their fully allocated amount.
Second, the University of Florida (UF) received the full amount ($2.6 M) needed to complete the renovation of the Beef Teaching Unit (BTU). This coupled with the $1.0M funded last year is a major success. This will be an important project to revitalize this key facility for the Animal Science program at UF. We are excited to see the transformation of the BTU as it gets completely renovated over the next two years. We were also successful in helping UF obtain a Workload Increase of $3.5 million. This is second year in a row a Workload Increase received funding to rebuild critical programs statewide.
Third, IFAS and FDACS budgets were fully funded including $7.3M for construction of a new diagnostics lab in Kissimmee. This will allow FDACS to take the Kissimmee lab from a very dated facility to state-of-the-art allowing veterinarians to send their diagnostic work to Kissimmee again instead of out-of-state.
Fourth, continued funding for research and promotion of the Florida beef industry. Last year the industry received $1.0M from the legislature to “conduct programs designed to expand uses of beef and beef products and strengthen the market position of Florida’s cattle industry in the State and in the Nation”. Seventy percent of this money went to research that was consistent with industry priorities, and thirty percent for promotion through the Florida Department of Agriculture – Division of Marketing who worked with the Florida Beef Council on promotion projects. This year we received $2.0M. The additional dollars will allow us to fund a significant number of multi-year research and promotion projects that are relevant to our industry.
Finally, FCA was able to get some language clarified in the law to ensure cattle grazing is considered an acceptable use on lands under certain conservation easements.
Thanks to Sam Ard, Alex Lucas and the FCA legislative committee for the great success this year. Special thanks to the support from the Florida Legislature lead by Speaker Steve Crisafulli and Senate President Andy Gardiner and to Representative Greg Steube for his support on the BTU project at UF.
I hope to see everyone in June at the convention at the Champions Gate!