March 29, 2019 

 Inside this issue
  Bills to Authorize Hemp Production Makes Progress  

On Monday, the Senate Agriculture Committee passed a bill that would establish the regulatory framework for a hemp program.  Sponsored by Sen. Rob Bradley (R-Fleming Island), SB 1020 defines hemp as an agricultural commodity and would give the Department of Agriculture rule making authority to establish commercial hemp production in Florida.

The House companion was heard in the House Agriculture and Natural Resources Committee on Tuesday and also passed unanimously.  Though similar, HB 333 by Rep. Ralph Massullo (R-Lecanto), provides a bit more of a regulatory structure. 

We are continuing to work with all stakeholders to support a final product that will allow for the production of this emerging crop while complying with Federal law. 



  Federal Disaster Aid Making Slow Progress  

While Farm Bureau continues to aggressively pursue state disaster aid, federal efforts are slowly progressing in a positive direction.

After Hurricane Irma in 2017, the Wildfires and Hurricane Indemnity Program (WHIP) implemented through the U.S. Department of Agriculture was authorized to issue payments to producers who incurred damage. For Hurricane Michael damage in 2018 and other disasters throughout the country, the House has acted on a disaster supplemental bill totaling $14 billion in comprehensive aid.

This legislation would allocate $3 billion to a 2019 WHIP, and an additional $480 million for the Emergency Forest Restoration Program (EFRP), which is a current disaster program for timber reforestation within USDA. Some reforms have been included in the legislation to increase maximum indemnity thresholds for damaged producers and gives authority to the USDA to provide block grants to the states for affected sectors.

We await a vote in the Senate, where Puerto Rico funding is a point of contention. Florida's delegation continues to stress the importance of this aid to our Panhandle producers.



  New Constitutional Amendment Bill Introduced  

On Thursday, the House Judiciary Committee introduced a bill that would make the citizen initiative process more deliberative.  This bill is designed to protect our constitution from out of state interests that have spent millions to place measures on the ballot that have, in the past negatively affected agriculture.

This bill, Judiciary Committee Proposed Bill 1, adds transparency to the amendment process by ensuring that petition gatherers are Florida residents, disclosing the possible costs of a proposed amendment and informing the voters if the proposal could be accomplished by statute.

Florida Farm Bureau has continued to support measures that protect Florida's Constitution from outside forces, and will work to support this proposal through the legislative process.  We are also supporting several other bills that are working through the legislature that would increase the threshold for passage and eliminate the Constitutional Revision Commission.



  4-H Students Wow Senate Agriculture Committee  

After a week where many budget items fell short of where we would like to see them, Miranda Bird, Taylor Dykes and Morgan Dykes displayed why investment in 4-H should be a priority for the Legislature.  These three 4-H officers gave an overview of the 4-H program to the Senate Agriculture Committee on Monday and clearly outlined the benefits of the Florida 4-H program to students and the state as a whole. 

Miranda Bird clearly impressed the members of the committee when she informed them that 4-H members were four times as likely to give back to their communities.  She reminded the committee that 4-H funding has been reduced in recent years and that funding this year's budget request would go a long way to their goal of reaching 20% of Florida's youth.