One of the greatest attributes of Farm Bureau is that ANY one can become a member that has any interest in agriculture, land, and natural resources.
Hillsborough County Farm Bureau has a variety of community programs that give it’s members the opportunity to engage with the community as well as their fellow Farm Bureau members.
As a member/policy holder, Farm Bureau’s mission is to serve you. In times of uncertainty you’re more than just a policyholder, you’re part of our family.
I am urging each of you to get involved and to become part of the Voice of Florida Agriculture that fully supports Congressional passage of HR 101, the Defending Domestic Produce Production Act. This bill was introduced by U.S. Representative Vern Buchanan (R-Long Boat Key) along with U.S. Senator Marco Rubio (R-FL) and U.S. Representative Al Lawson (D-Tallahassee) earlier this year. This bipartisan bill would correct the adverse trade effects of Mexico on season and perishable Florida produce such as blueberries, strawberries and tomatoes.
To give you an idea on why this bill is vital for specialty crop producers in Florida, consider just fresh tomato production in the Sunshine State since 2000. University of Florida/IFAS researchers have determined tomato production in Florida has fallen from 1.56 billion pounds in 2000 to 950 million pounds in 2015, dropping nearly 40 per cent.
Additionally, Florida specialty crop growers have seen a market share loss approaching 20 per cent to imports from Mexico, resulting in a $2 billion loss annually. If you also consider the added challenges these growers face, such as an adequate labor resource, along with the variables each season of weather, price and other considerations – these are very challenging obstacles that must be met.
Please help us support this important bill. Contact your U.S. senators and representatives, urging their advancement of this proposed legislation. In addition to those lawmakers noted previously, I am pleased to report the involvement and support of Republic Congressmen Gus Bilirakis and Ross Spano, as well as Democratic Representative Kathy Castor. Your thanks to each of them and plea for continued support would be most appreciated.
Our specialty producers are not looking for government handouts, but they do want and deserve a level playing field. If you — please note that I am addressing all IN THE FIELD readers, not just Farm Bureau members –need assistance in locating contact information for your elected officials in our nation’s capital, please feel free to contact us on the web at hcfarmbureau.org or call us at 813-685-9121.
It is important for you to also know that researchers from UF/IFAS assembled very important information on the wide-ranging subsidies the Mexican government is providing to its growers. This spans support from preparing fields and helping to pay for protected agriculture and other grower needs right on through to marketing. Our Florida specialty growers have no such support whatsoever, and that is just not fair and must be remedied. Washington officials at the very highest levels have been given this information and will hopefully respond accordingly as revised international trade agreements are revised.
I would also ask that all of the ladies involved in agriculture that are reading this letter, please access and participate in the “Women in Ag” online survey just launched by the American Farm Bureau Federation. This survey seeks to gauge the goals, aspirations, achievements and needs of women in American agriculture. Again, this is an undertaking for all women in Ag, not just Farm Bureau members. Access to this important survey is available at: fb.org/women.
Dennis Carlton, Jr.
Agriculture has a long tradition in Hillsborough County, from cattle introduced by the early Spanish explorers to the strawberry industry in the Plant City area, and the national reputation of Ruskin tomatoes. Agriculture has historically been Hillsborough County’s largest single industry. Despite the perception that Hillsborough is an urban county, 34 percent of its land area is farmland.
In 1995 the Hillsborough County Farm Bureau, in cooperation with several other organizations, took part in the Hillsborough County Agriculture Task Force, a county-appointed agricultural advisory board. The charge given to this group was to first determine the current state of agriculture in Hillsborough County and then make recommendations to improve the industry’s economic sustainability. To demonstrate the current state of the industry, the Task Force commissioned an economic impact study. That study revealed that agriculture had an economic impact of $1.5 billion per year on the county, provided a tax surplus to the county and that the opportunity cost of agriculture could compete very well with development.