Scott signs wide-ranging agriculture bill;
Includes repeal of bunny dyeing ban
Lakeland Ledger blog ... April 7, 2012
Against a backdrop of dwindling funds in the state, Florida’s
agriculture industry owes a big thank you to its friends in the
Legislature this year for understanding the needs of this important
sector of the our economy.
The session, which began early because this year voting districts
were being redrawn, ended on a high note late in the evening March 9
with at least 10 bills passed that were favorable to Florida
agriculture. Not one passed that would have harmed the grower community,
and only three that would have helped died in committee.
Delivered and signed
Only 292 bills passed this session out of 2,052 filed. HB 7087 was an
important one. The economic development package was important to the
business community at large and to Gov. Rick Scott because it cut
corporate taxes. The ag community appreciated the inclusion in HB
7087 of a sales tax exemption on electricity used in off-farm
packinghouses. “This means real savings for our growers who
operate packinghouses that are not on farms,” said Butch Calhoun,
FFVA’s director of government relations. The sales tax exemption
was originally a stand-alone bill filed by Sen. Gary Siplin (D-Orlando)
and Rep. Ben Albritton (R-Bartow). HB 7087 passed on the last day of the
session, and Scott signed it into law March 27. It will take effect July
FFVA's executive committee and the
Emerging Leader Development Program class met with Senate President
Rep. Mike Haridopolos during the 2012 legislative session.
HB 1197, which turns regulation of beekeeping over to the Florida
Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services, passed on March 6. It
was sponsored in its original form by Sen. Alan Hays (R-Umatilla) and
Rep. Mike Horner (R-Kissimmee), and amended to incorporate SB 1194/HB
1021, a general ag bill sponsored by Albritton and Sen. Jim Norman
(R-Tampa). The amendment incorporated provisions of the ag bill,
including a prohibition against local governments from charging
stormwater assessments on farm operations. The amendment also authorized
the use of citrus harvesting equipment and citrus fruit loaders to
transport citrus. HB1197 was signed by the officers and presented to the
governor on March 23. Scott must act on this bill by April 7.
SB 2060 received its share of public attention. It was filed by Sen.
Charlie Dean (R-Inverness) and as HB 705 by Rep. Matt Caldwell (R-Fort
Myers) to exempt the EPA’s numeric nutrient criteria for Florida
waterways from ratification. The governor signed that bill before the
Other bills positive for agriculture included HB 503, which will
assist those seeking development permits. HB503 and its companion SB 716
were filed by Rep. Jimmy Patronis (R-Panama City) and Sen. Mike Bennett
(R-Bradenton). HB 313 provided limits on liability for landowners or
lessees of land who allow hunters, fishermen and others on their land
for recreational activities. HB 313 was filed by Rep. Leonard Bembry
(D-Madison) and its companion bill, SB 802 was filed by Sen. Charlie
Dean (R-Inverness). Another favorable bill passed this session requires
local governments to follow statewide environmental resource permitting
rules. HB 7003 was filed by Rep. Steve Crisafulli (R-Merritt Island) and
its companion, SB 1354, by Sen. Nancy Detert (R-Venice).
Two bills involving the Florida Department of Citrus also passed. HB
1237 revises the Florida Citrus Code and HB 1239 exempts non-published
reports and research from being placed in the public record.
Legislation also passed that exempts farmers from needing a
commercial driver’s license to transport agricultural products to
or from farms. And a provision was passed that exempts the operators of
farm labor vehicles from hours-of-service requirements during declared
Some bills did not survive the committee process
Only three bills backed by ag interests died in committee.
The one with the most media attention was SB 1362/HB 1103, filed by
Sen. Alan Hays (R-Umatilla) and Rep. Tom Goodson (R-Titusville). It
would have provided criteria for determining the location of the
ordinary high-water mark for navigable non-tidal water bodies.
Another bill would have exempted from local ordinances certified
applicators applying urban landscape fertilizer who follow Best
Management Practices. SB 604 was filed by Dean and HB 421 by Rep. Jimmie
A trespassing bill, SB 132/HB 77, also failed to survive the
committee process. Filed by Sen. John Thrasher (R-Jacksonville) and Rep.
Daniel Davis (R-Jacksonville), it would have authorized the use of
purple paint marks to identify a “no trespass” area.
No immigration threat … yet
FFVA's executive committee presents Rep.
Seth McKeel with the FFVA Legislator of the
FFVA monitored several bills that contained potential problems, but
those were amended to correct those issues.
The immigration bill that would have posed problems for agriculture
never really got traction this session and died in committee without
being heard. SB 1638/HB 1315 filed by Sen. Thad Altman (R-Melbourne) and
Rep. Gayle Harrell (R-Port St. Lucie), would have required all employers
in the state to use the federal E-Verify system to verify the employment
eligibility of new employees.
Calhoun said that the bill’s lack of support was a positive
development. But with new legislative leadership coming to Tallahassee
next year, agriculture must be prepared to work on any proposed
immigration legislation waiting in the wings. “This could be the
major issue facing our industry next session,” he added.