Opinion: Balancing Budget Misery

The magic number for this year’s legislative session, which opens March 2, is $2.2 billion. This is the budget hole that must be plugged as lawmakers again grapple with a colossal revenue shortage in the state.

Legislators will be looking for ways to close that gap, with user fees as one likely source. Working with the Ag Coalition, one of FFVA’s priorities will be to ensure growers aren’t the victims of new or higher fees. Given the increase over the past several years in the cost of everything from fuel to fertilizer to food safety, Florida’s growers simply can’t afford additional costs.

Through the Ag Coalition, FFVA also is supporting a bill that wraps up several of our priorities. A key provision in the bill would prohibit duplicative regulation. County governments would not be permitted to regulate farm activities that already fall under best management practices or are already regulated by federal or state agencies, including water management districts. In addition, under the bill, counties could not levy a stormwater fee on farm land if the operation already has a permit from certain agencies, or if it follows BMPs.

Talking Tomatoes

FFVA also is backing House Bill 69, which revises the state’s existing food safety program for tomatoes. Several years ago, Florida tomato growers became the first in the produce industry to develop a voluntary food safety program, with the guidelines becoming law last July. This bill would give the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services, which is charged with conducting inspections to ensure the regulations are being followed, the necessary authority for enforcement. The measure is especially timely, because the FDA has said federal regulation for fresh produce will happen this year. Florida’s program could — and should — serve as a model for the rest of the country.

We also will be working to make sure that UF/IFAS receives adequate funding and that there’s not a replay of last year’s run on its budget.

Tracking Traceability

As it moves toward food safety legislation, the FDA held a two-day meeting in December to discuss and solicit public comment on traceability for all foods, including fruits and vegetables.

Held jointly with the USDA Food Safety and Information Service (FSIS), the agency sought to identify elements of effective traceability systems, identify gaps, and suggest specific mechanisms for improvements, according to an FDA news release.

“This public meeting provides an opportunity for FDA to collaborate more closely with FSIS as well as with members of the food industry, many of whom have been making important innovations in food safety practices and technology, and all of whom bear primary responsibility for producing and marketing safe food,” said Michael R. Taylor, senior advisor to FDA’s Commissioner Margaret Hamburg.

Presenters at the sessions included representatives from throughout the food supply chain, in addition to those from FDA, FSIS, and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Representatives from the United Fresh Produce Association and Produce Marketing Association both testified about the status of the industry led effort, the Produce Traceability Initiative. Representatives of Costco, Darden, and General Mills provided a perspective from the retail level.

Mike Aerts, FFVA director of marketing and membership, attended the meeting to monitor the discussion. Although a lot of information was presented about where things stand now, Aerts says, little new was offered. “I was hoping that there would be more in the way of new information and discussion of the specific directions we need to be heading,” he says. “Traceability will be part of whatever food safety legislation comes out of Congress in 2010, and it would be helpful to have a better idea of what the regulations are going to look like as early in the process as possible.”

The FDA also is seeking written comment on a number of questions related to traceability, according to a Nov. 3 Federal Register notice (Read the notice at www.fsis.usda.gov). The questions cover topics such as what kind of information should be included in a food-tracing system, how records should be kept, and the costs of implementing such a system.

The deadline for filing comments is March 3. FFVA plans to solicit information from its members and compile that into its comments.

Leave a Reply

Featured Stories
Cosmis Crisp apples planting FEATURE
GenNext Growers
May 5, 2016
Washington Apple Education Foundation Awards $1 Million in Scholarships
Funded through donations, scholarship fund reaches major milestone. Read More
Downy Mildew in Spinach for web
Crop Protection
May 5, 2016
Michigan Researcher Leads $2.3-Million Grant To Combat Downy Mildew In Vegetables
Michigan State’s Mary Hausbeck along with a multistate research team will work to enhance and refine early detection methods, allowing growers to identify the pathogen’s presence in the air -- before it infects fields. Read More
legal justice, courts
Berries
May 4, 2016
University of California Sued Over Strawberry Breeding – Again
This time it’s a private strawberry breeding company, which says the statewide breeding program has been decimated by UC-Davis. Read More
(Photo credit: USDA)
Citrus
May 4, 2016
$6 Million Available For Antimicrobial Resistance Research
Program to develop strategies to reduce public health risks in food chain. Read More
California's "Citrus Belt" is on the east side of San Joaquin Valley, not far from the Sierra Nevada foothills. (Photo credit: David Eddy)
Citrus
May 3, 2016
New Program Targets Abandoned California Citrus Trees
Bayer and California Citrus Mutual have teamed up to help protect the state’s commercial citrus industry from deadly citrus greening. Read More
Extreme close-up of redbay ambrosia beetle
Fruits
May 3, 2016
How To Build A Better Beetle Trap
UF/IFAS study on luring, snaring the notorious redbay ambrosia beetle earns prestigious award. Read More
Shockwave, a long shelf-life cantaloupe with higher sugar content than most varieties is available from Holmes Seed Co. and Harris Seeds. Credit: Holmes Seed Co.
Cucurbits
May 3, 2016
New Cantaloupe, Pumpkin, And Squash Seeds Available
New varieties developed at the University of New Hampshire are the result of the longest continuous squash and pumpkin breeding program in North America. Read More
A herbicide screening trial in a non-bearing almond orchard treated in early January 2011.  The middle plot is a glyphosate-only program whereas the foreground and background plots had residual herbicides.  The photo was taken four months after the January treatments. (Photo credit UCANR)
Crop Protection
May 3, 2016
Almond Board To Hold Three Weed Management Workshops
The second in a series of free educational workshops aimed at the state’s almond growers will cover weed identification and Read More
fork digging into a plate full of salad
Food Safety
May 2, 2016
Department Of Justice Investigates Dole Over Listeria Outbreak Linked To Packaged Salads
Salad mix packaged at the company’s Ohio facility has been connected to four deaths. Read More
Florida Everglades swamp shot at sunset
Citrus
May 2, 2016
As Hurricane Season Nears, South Florida Going Dry
All basins around the region experience rainfall deficits during April as totals fall far below average. Read More
The Latest
GenNext Growers
May 5, 2016
Washington Apple Education Foundation Aw…
Funded through donations, scholarship fund reaches major milestone. Read More
Crop Protection
May 5, 2016
Michigan Researcher Leads $2.3-Million G…
Michigan State’s Mary Hausbeck along with a multistate research team will work to enhance and refine early detection methods, allowing growers to identify the pathogen’s presence in the air -- before it infects fields. Read More
Berries
May 4, 2016
University of California Sued Over Straw…
This time it’s a private strawberry breeding company, which says the statewide breeding program has been decimated by UC-Davis. Read More
Citrus
May 4, 2016
$6 Million Available For Antimicrobial R…
Program to develop strategies to reduce public health risks in food chain. Read More
Citrus
May 3, 2016
New Program Targets Abandoned California…
Bayer and California Citrus Mutual have teamed up to help protect the state’s commercial citrus industry from deadly citrus greening. Read More
Fruits
May 3, 2016
How To Build A Better Beetle Trap
UF/IFAS study on luring, snaring the notorious redbay ambrosia beetle earns prestigious award. Read More
Cucurbits
May 3, 2016
New Cantaloupe, Pumpkin, And Squash Seed…
New varieties developed at the University of New Hampshire are the result of the longest continuous squash and pumpkin breeding program in North America. Read More
Crop Protection
May 3, 2016
Almond Board To Hold Three Weed Manageme…
The second in a series of free educational workshops aimed at the state’s almond growers will cover weed identification and Read More
Food Safety
May 2, 2016
Department Of Justice Investigates Dole …
Salad mix packaged at the company’s Ohio facility has been connected to four deaths. Read More
Citrus
May 2, 2016
As Hurricane Season Nears, South Florida…
All basins around the region experience rainfall deficits during April as totals fall far below average. Read More
Equipment
May 2, 2016
USDA Offers New Loans For Portable Farm …
Portable equipment can help producers, including small and local farmers, get products to market quickly. Read More
Vegetables
May 2, 2016
The Importance Of Producing Crops On Wel…
Many farmland protection options and tools have been suggested and used in efforts to slow the rate of farmland losses around the country. Read More
Leafy Vegetables
May 2, 2016
Electronic Eye Detects Decay Inside Bagg…
Researchers develop a way to help select breeding lines that will yield cut lettuce with a longer shelflife. Read More
Nuts
May 2, 2016
California Almond Acreage Up 6%
The increase follows a trend in which acreage has doubled in the last 20 years. Read More
Farm Management
May 2, 2016
USDA Unveils New Urban Agriculture Toolk…
For urban farmers and agribusiness entrepreneurs, the toolkit is an electronic document that helps users navigate more than 70 resources, including technical assistance and financing opportunities. Read More
Cucurbits
May 2, 2016
13 Of The Latest Cucumber Varieties
Check out this slideshow for more details on 13 cucumber varieties you need to know about from the nation’s leading seed breeders and Read More
Apples & Pears
May 1, 2016
USApple Debuts New Website
Industry group says new site is responsive to different formats, designed to be more consumer and industry friendly. Read More
Crop Protection
April 30, 2016
How To Elect The Right Fungicide For The…
Fungicide application is one tool of a successful IPM program for crop diseases. Used judiciously and appropriately, these chemicals are powerful allies in the fight against the fungi and bacteria that attack crops. Read More
[gravityform id="62" title="false" description="false"]