Due to hurricanes, citrus greening and unfair trade pressures, Florida’s citrus growers are increasingly left with little choice but to sell their land to developers, said U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio of Florida. Because of that, he introduced the Conservation Reserve Program Amendments Act to establish a subprogram under the Conservation Reserve Program (CRP) to conserve citrus agricultural land. The legislation seeks to address one aspect of our nation’s food security by preventing the permanent loss of Florida agricultural lands to development and helping to protect critical wildlife corridors throughout the state.
Specifically, this bill would authorize a subprogram for the CRP to conserve lands on which citrus has been grown over the last 10 years. The program would prioritize easements for lands impacted by citrus greening that are at risk of development or are thoroughfares for species listed under the Endangered Species Act. It would require enrollees to remediate fallow groves that spread the citrus greening disease. The legislation would ensure that citrus growers have the option to preserve their land while promising treatments for citrus greening are being produced, and new saplings are grown.
“This legislation will help protect Florida’s agricultural lands and wildlife corridors, ensuring that Florida’s citrus growers can continue to provide for our state and nation,” Rubio said.
U.S. Representatives Scott Franklin and Darren Soto, also of Florida, introduced companion legislation in the House.
“Amending the Conservation Reserve Program to include Florida citrus groves will give our farmers needed time to rehabilitate their crops and continue our state’s proud tradition of providing domestically sourced orange juice, Franklin said. “While Florida taxpayers pay into the CRP, our state has been chronically underrepresented when it comes to funding. After last year’s severe hurricane season, now is the perfect opportunity to level the playing field.”
“As we work to address the challenges facing our Florida citrus industry and support our growers and farmers, we must also prioritize the protection of the land on which these crops are grown,” added Soto. “The subprogram this bill proposes for the CRP will provide citrus growers with a valuable option to conserve their land while we continue to develop new treatments for citrus greening and recover from the damage caused by hurricanes. The subprogram will also help prevent the permanent loss of Florida’s agricultural lands to development and protect critical wildlife corridors.”
The Conservation Reserve Program Amendments Act is endorsed by the Florida Farm Bureau. “For decades, citrus has been Florida’s flagship agricultural commodity,” the organization stated. “With disease, development pressure and adverse weather causing yearly declines in citrus production and loss of grove lands, the environmental benefits provided by these lands are being lost as well.”
Source: U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio
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