Building Strong Advocates for Farming a Class Act

An annual rite of passage that occurs at FFVA’s convention is the graduation of the current class of our Emerging Leader Development Program and the introduction of the new class. As more classes graduate, a growing number of alumni are attending the convention, giving it a new vitality.

So, we’re pleased to welcome 10 up-and-coming leaders as the ELDP’s Class 7 for 2017-2018. They are: Myles Basore, TKM Bengard, Belle Glade; Maria Cavazos, R.C. Hatton, South Bay; Catherine Cellon, Duda Farm Fresh Foods, Belle Glade; Philip Grigsby, Premier Ag Finance, Lake Placid; Brent Johnson, DuPont, Bradenton; Frankie Montalvo, Glades Formulating Corp., Belle Glade; Justin Pettit, Blue Hammock Farms, Sebring; Daniel Rifa, U.S. Sugar, Clewiston; Adam Roe, Wm. G. Roe and Sons, Winter Haven; and Shane Rogers, J&J Family of Farms, Loxahatchee.

Launched in 2011, the program identifies and develops leaders to be strong advocates for Florida agriculture. The sessions provide a wealth of information on the many issues affecting the industry as well as tools to communicate about agriculture. Ultimately, graduates of the program can get involved to strengthen the future of specialty crop agriculture and to increase grassroots engagement in FFVA and other industry organizations.

The yearlong program includes seminars provided by FFVA staff members and other experts on current issues, meetings with legislators and state officials in Tallahassee, tours of venues to study environmental issues and water management, and visits to specialty crop production areas.

“It’s exciting to start another class for the Emerging Leader Development Program,” said Sonia Tighe, Program Director and Executive Director of the Florida Specialty Crop Foundation. “Class 7 has an interesting mix of commodities represented, which will make it more educational for them. They always learn from each other as well as the operations we visit.”

Preserving Specialty Crop Farm Bill Funding

Progress is underway on the next farm bill, and FFVA is working in a leadership capacity in the Specialty Crop Farm Bill Alliance to ensure the fresh produce industry’s priorities are addressed. A June listening session in Florida kicked off a series that was held across the country to hear from producers. Specialty crops were very much the focus of several of those hearings.

In a July session, House Ag Committee ranking member Collin Peterson, D-MN, said, “It’s really amazing to see the amount of money you have invested just to produce your crops. While a hundred acres of corn may be worth several hundred thousand dollars, that same number of acres planted in strawberries may be worth several million dollars. I don’t know how you guys do it.”

In the 2008 farm bill, specialty crop agriculture received funding for the first time for research initiatives, programs to increase school children’s consumption of fruits and vegetables, and programs that promote trade and new markets. Congress continued those investments in the 2014 farm bill, but budget challenges loom this time around.

Several lawmakers have pledged to keep discussions on track and get a bill done by the end of this year and up for a vote in the House next year. The current bill expires in September 2018.

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