“Our primary mission is to have a positive impact on the local level in regards to serving as a watchdog on comprehensive plan, regulatory, and local ordinance matters,” says Ray Royce, executive director of the Highlands County Citrus Growers Association (HCCGA). “By working closely with governmental leadership and staff, we have been able to make sure that growers have not been adversely affected by any governmental actions taken at this level of governance.”
Land Development Lingo
In 2013, Royce says updates to regulations surrounding zoning and development will be an important part of HCCGA’s agenda. “We also will continue to be very focused as we interact with local governments as they consider revisions to their land development regulations and other regulatory actions to ensure that there are not any intended, or perhaps more importantly, unintended negative consequences from regulatory revision,” he says.
The land development regulations will need to be updated because of recent changes to Highlands County’s comprehensive plan. Royce says without the involvement of the ag community, language could be inserted in the plan updates that could hurt agricultural property owners. “We will be actively involved in the process and will be aware of any language that could be a problem,” he says.
BMPs On The Ridge
Another priority for the coming year will be assisting growers in enrolling in the new statewide citrus BMP manual. Growers on the Ridge will be required to re-enroll in the BMP program. Royce says participation of growers on the Ridge was already high for the citrus nitrate rule, so he expects a high percentage of growers to sign the notice of intent (NOI) to participate in the statewide BMP.
“Growers will definitely need to make sure they closely review the BMPs checklist before signing a NOI, and perhaps include ‘clarifying addendums’ to certain practices,” says Royce. “But ultimately, I believe the BMPs provide growers with more benefit than downside.
“When the statewide citrus BMP manual clears its final bureaucratic hurdles in Tallahassee and the sign-up period begins, HCCGA and others will assist growers with understanding the nuances of the document and the sign-up process.
“As far as sign-up assistance is concerned, HCCGA staff will be able to do anything from providing information about the BMPs to facilitating and attending meetings with FDACS personnel who will be working with growers during the NOI sign-up process.”