Dear FCM Board and Members:
It’s been a whirlwind 2016 in Tallahassee and with a week left in the scheduled legislative session, I have some very positive news to share.
As you know, the Florida citrus industry is pursuing an ambitious agenda this year and we are right on the cusp of getting it done. The items/proposals/appropriations I’ve highlighted below have been approved by both the House and the Senate and are awaiting the Governor’s signature. This all happened late into the evening last night. The appropriations alone total more than $31.1 million dollars! The situation is very fluid over the next seven days but I wanted to make sure you had the latest. We will offer the appropriate “thank yous” to our stalwarts in Tallahassee when the time is right but I wanted to quickly voice our gratitude to Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam, Senate President Gardiner and Speaker Crisafulli as well as Reps. Albritton, Corcoran and Raburn and Senators Gaetz, Galvano, Grimsley, Hays, Hutson, Lee and Stargel.
To know we have a group of legislators and leaders at the state level who understand the challenges we face as well as our importance to Florida is comforting.
I know many of you are going to ask how you can participate in the process over the next week. For right now, sit tight as we assess next steps and I will let you know.
Here are the highlights:
General Citrus Related Funding
• Citrus Research and Development Foundation (CRDF) – $8 million
• Citrus Crop Decline Supplemental Funding – $2 million, These dollars will supplement revenue lost from the citrus inspection trust fund due to HLB
• Citrus Health Response Program (CHRP) – $7,693,329
• GROVE Program – $4.5 million to establish the GROVE (Greening Removal or Vector Elimination) program within the Department of Agriculture which will provide a cost share to individual growers to remove abandoned groves up to $125,000
• Citrus Budwood Facility – $510,000
• Florida Southern Greenhouse – $750,000
Department of Citrus
• New Varieties Development and Management Corp. – $650,000 recurring
• Florida Forward health and wellness marketing program – $5 million recurring
• Florida citrus nutrition outreach – $1 million
• Share the Sunshine marketing program – $1 million
In addition to the appropriations, there are a couple of general policy measures the citrus industry has been pursuing. We are looking good on these as well:
• Special Assessments on Agriculture Land – Prohibits Counties and Municipalities from levying or collecting special assessments on agriculture lands for fire protection services. This exemption also applies to pole barns but does not include residential dwellings or nonresidential farm buildings. Both the House and Senate bills have passed their respective committees of reference and are ready for floor votes.
• A sales tax exemption for fresh fruit and vegetable packinghouses on equipment purchased, repairs to existing equipment, and labor. The House bill has passed and the Senate has included this provision in their tax cut package.
• A proposal has been approved in both the House and the Senate that provides groves taken out of production due to disease retain their agriculture assessment for a period of five years at a de minimis value of no more than $50 per acre.
We will keep you updated via e-mail and the Triangle as things move forward. The Governor still has veto authority so there are a lot of scenarios in play. Gov. Scott has traditionally been a big supporter of citrus so we are cautiously optimistic about our package getting signed. One more thank you to the FCM Board, growers and FDOC staff and Commissioners who took part in communicating the state of the industry in Tallahassee. Your hard work is much appreciated.
Please let me know if you have any questions or concerns.
Michael W. Sparks
Executive Vice President/CEO
Florida Citrus Mutual
411 E Orange Street
Lakeland, Fl 33801-5054