The Story of
Florida Agriculture

Florida agriculture has a compelling story to tell. It’s the story of farmers, their love for the land, and an industry that helps power our state’s economy. It’s a story that’s been written one generation at a time, by families whose drive and dedication put food on our tables every day.

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FFVA Chairman - Alan Temple

From the Chairman

In our businesses, numbers are important. We look at costs, revenue and the bottom line. We use numbers to measure growth and progress. We analyze them to increase efficiencies.

In the same way, numbers are important for FFVA as an association. There is strength in numbers. The more individual voices we have, the stronger we can speak with our collective voice as an industry.

FFVA President - Mike Stuart

From the President

In life it’s often helpful to take a look at where you’ve just been, where you are now, and where you’re headed. That’s true for FFVA as an association as well.

In this annual report, we look back at the past season to highlight FFVA’s efforts and successes on behalf of you, our members. This year’s legislative session was extremely successful for us, with all of the bills FFVA supported becoming law. That’s the result of hard work in Tallahassee and elected leadership in the capital who are friends of agriculture. We also saw strong efforts this first year from our new committees, which are tackling key issues that affect producers.

Legacy of leadership

Florida growers rely on FFVA to safeguard the industry's interests in Tallahassee and Washington, D.C. Policymakers depend on FFVA for direction on the most important farming issues. And FFVA’s credibility on agricultural priorities makes it a leading resource for journalists.

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Fueling the Economy

The numbers alone tell the story of a thriving industry that creates jobs and supports communities. Florida agriculture and its related industries account for 1.52 million jobs – 14.3 percent of all jobs in the state. Statewide, revenue adds up to $148.6 billion a year. Almost 8,000 farms totaling 850,000 acres produce Florida’s bounty of fruits and vegetables.

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Love of the land

Behind the economic engine are the people who farm. Their stories tell of determination and innovation. For most, theirs are family businesses that have flourished for generations. They’re driven by a love for the land and a passion for meeting head-on the daily challenges of growing food.

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Eye on the Future

The story of Florida agriculture is also a story of change. Today’s farmers continue to build on the legacy of those who came before, while keeping their eyes focused firmly on the future. Growers see a future full of opportunity, protecting the land and water for generations to come.

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You Connect.
We Serve.

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Legacy of leadership

Legacy of Leadership

Advocacy

FFVA had an outstanding legislative session. All of the bills that addressed our issues were passed, including the comprehensive water bill and a law exempting packinghouse equipment and repairs from sales tax. Another new law allows growers in the Citrus Health Response Program to keep their greenbelt status.

This fall’s elections will have a significant effect on Florida agriculture. One U.S. Senate seat and all of Florida’s congressional, state Senate and House seats are up for election.  As part of the Ag Coalition, FFVA took part in important candidate interviews for state Senate and House seats.

Members of FFVA’s Board of Directors, Class 5 of the Emerging Leader Development Program and the Advocacy Committee met with state lawmakers in January to discuss priority agriculture bills. The group thanked House Speaker Steve Crisafulli for his leadership in passing the sales tax exemption and the comprehensive water bill.


Farmers hit by flooding got a boost when U.S. Department of Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack granted a disaster designation for counties affected by January's record rains. FFVA played a key role in supplying needed information to the state Farm Service Agency for the designation. The declaration opened doors for possible tax deferments for vegetable farmers in the Everglades Agricultural Area.

Water and the bad winter weather were key topics during FFVA’s Spring Regulatory Tour. During the five-day trip representatives of federal and state agencies met with producers, saw production practices up close, and discussed with growers the effects of regulations on their ability to produce crops.


Food safety

Throughout the year, FFVA met with various members to help them prepare for third-party audits at their farms and facilities. Such preparation is important with the implementation of new food safety rules under the Food Safety Modernization Act.

A series of FFVA regional workshops focused on assessing food safety risks on the farm and in packinghouses. The interactive sessions in several locations covered topics including an overview of microbiology, creating a food safety culture, assessing risk and environmental monitoring.

FFVA joined other associations in calling on FDA to delay implementing the Food Safety Modernization Act's Produce Safety Rule and the Preventive Controls Rule. The delay was needed because of unintended effects on off-farm packinghouses and because mandatory training materials had not been approved.


FFVA organized a tour of South Florida farms and packinghouses for several representatives of the FDA. It gave them an opportunity to see production practices and water-testing challenges posed by new food safety rules. Guests included departing FDA Deputy Commissioner Mike Taylor and Stephen Ostroff, who has since taken his place.

The association partnered with UF/IFAS to bring the industry FDA-recognized Food Safety Preventive Controls Alliance Training in four locations. By participating in the training, attendees could become FSMA Preventive Controls Qualified Individuals.

The Produce Industry Coalition -- of which FFVA is a charter member – met with leadership at the Food and Drug Administration this week to voice questions and concerns over the effects of new food safety rules on various sectors of the industry.


Media relations

The association works with other industry organizations in communicating and coordinating key messages about nutrition, workforce issues and the economic impact of agriculture. This year those groups included the Agriculture Workforce Coalition and the Alliance for Food and Farming.

FFVA remains a credible, recognized source for the news media about the Florida specialty crop industry. Reporters sought out FFVA for interviews and reliable information on numerous issues throughout the year, including immigration reform, food safety and citrus greening. The association also responded to inaccurate, negative portrayals of agriculture in the media.

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Fueling the Economy

Fueling the Economy

Workforce

FFVA hosted employers who use the association’s services to help them obtain workers through the H-2A program. During the half-day session, the group learned more about the scope of FFVA's services and received required H-2A paperwork, reference materials and more. It also was a chance for FFVA to seek input from those who use the program.

To help employers comply with myriad employment regulations, FFVA published the FFVA Compliance Connection in partnership with the U.S. Department of Labor's Wage and Hour Division. Each issue focused on items in the Department of Labor’s Migrant and Seasonal Worker Protection Act Compliance Checklist and explained potential violations.

FFVA served 34 members during the season with the H-2A program, filing 95 applications covering 16 states for a total of 8,837 guest workers. In addition, FFVA processed 39 extended petitions. FFVA subsidiary company Florida East Coast Travel Services Inc. processed almost 7,530 H-2A farmworkers for the season. In the same period, FLECTS also processed 3,100 H-2B non-agricultural workers.


Attendance at the annual Agricultural Labor Relations Forum topped previous years. A record-setting crowd of almost 300 employers met in Orlando to learn the latest on a host of issues including wage and hour compliance, the Worker Protection Standard, the H-2A guest worker program and more.


Communication

To help our members tell the story of Florida agriculture, FFVA designed and provided to members a series of eye-catching infographics that convey at a glance the importance of agriculture to our state. Designed to be shared in person and on social media, the graphics focus on agriculture’s impact on the economy and Florida’s top position in supplying fresh produce to the rest of the country.

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Love of the Land

Love of the Land

Crop protection

FFVA worked closely with FDACS in gathering information in the fight to eradicate the Oriental fruit fly discovered in August in Miami-Dade County. One of the world's most threatening exotic fruit flies, the insect can infest more than 430 types of fruits, vegetables and nuts. After successful eradication measures, a quarantine was lifted in February.

The association responded to the USDA’s risk assessment on the pesticide imidacloprid, asserting that it is a key component for insect management. FFVA emphasized the importance of imidacloprid to the citrus industry and noted that agriculture and apiculture are cooperating to cut risks to pollinator populations. FFVA was also successful in obtaining a Section 18 renewal approval for the use of clothianidin on young citrus trees for managing the Asian citrus psyllid and prevent infection of citrus greening.

FFVA, Third Party Registrations Inc. and the Citrus Research and Development Foundation submitted a Section 18 Emergency Exemption package to FDACS, which allowed the state to petition the EPA for access to three bactericides to improve the health of trees affected by citrus greening. A crisis declaration for this use was declared by the state in March that allowed growers to begin using these tools.

FFVA also secured from EPA a Section 18 specific exemption for the use of tolfenpyrad on fruiting vegetable crops to manage multiple species of thrips that damage crops, reduce yields and transmit deadly tospoviruses to fruiting vegetable plants.

The association also was involved in fostering new registration uses and re-registration review activities for products such as Acuron Herbicide, paraquat, Luna Fungicide, Closure Insecticide and atrazine/simazine. FFVA also stayed engaged in industry matters such as the chlorpyrifos risk assessment process, the 10X FQPA human health safety factor initiative, the Endangered Species Act and its implications, Asian and European markets and chemical MRLs, the ground spraying initiative, honey bee health and research coordination, and modifications to the Worker Protection Standard.


Water and natural resources

FFVA has been instrumental in working with the state on its new Best Management Practices Implementation Assurance Program for growers. The program will ensure that properties within Basin Management Action Plan areas are following BMPs or monitoring their water quality.

FFVA represents agriculture as a steering committee member on the North Florida Regional Water Supply Partnership.  The partnership is a coordinated water planning effort between the Suwanee River Water Management District, St. John’s River Water Management District, the state Department of Environmental Protection and stakeholders.

The association participated in South Florida Water Management District’s Upper East Coast Water Supply Plan update, which projects estimated water demands through the year 2040.  The plan is updated every five years and includes St. Lucie, Martin and northeast Okeechobee counties.


FFVA was selected to participate on the Office of Agricultural Water Policy’s new BMP Research Coordinating Committee.  The panel gathers data, identifies gaps and prioritizes research needs on a five‐year basis.

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Eye on the Future

Eye on the Future

Class 5 of the Emerging Leader Development Program learned about all facets of Florida specialty crop agriculture, starting with FFVA’s history and how it works on behalf of its members. During the legislative session, the group met with lawmakers in Tallahassee. The class also toured South Florida operations and then traveled to the heart of California’s agricultural region. Throughout each session, class members built important and lasting relationships.

FFVA’s new issues committees hit the ground running this season by reviewing current policies and identifying priority industry issues and research needs. The groups focus on advocacy, food safety and sustainability, production management, research, supply chain management, water and land use, and workforce.

The Florida Specialty Crop Foundation supports research through direct funding and management of Specialty Crop Block Grants. In 2015, the Foundation received 13 new block grants of nearly $1.6 million for projects on marketing, diseases, weed management, protected agriculture and more. At its 17th annual Benefit Auction, the Foundation raised over $32,000 to support its initiatives.

With Bayer CropScience, the Foundation collaborates with Farmers Feeding Florida to provide grower incentives for unmarketable produce to be delivered to families of the Redlands Christian Migrant Association’s programs. The Foundation also raises money for RCMA through the sale of holiday cards designed by RCMA students. In 2015, the program printed more than 11,000 cards and raised nearly $28,000.

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Strength in numbers

In our businesses, numbers are important. We look at costs, revenue and the bottom line. We use numbers to measure growth and progress. We analyze them to increase efficiencies.

In the same way, numbers are important for FFVA as an association. There is strength in numbers. The more individual voices we have, the stronger we can speak with our collective voice as an industry.

FFVA’s numbers continue to be strong. Even in challenging times, we have been able to maintain our number of Producer Members and Trade Associate Members. This could not be done without the hard work of our staff and volunteers as well as support from our trade. We must continue to grow both membership categories to further strengthen our membership -- and more important, our influence in Tallahassee and Washington.

Attendance at our annual convention grew 13.1 percent from 2014 to 2015 and is anticipated to grow again this year. These numbers show the event adds value for members. Our association is gaining in strength and relevance.

FFVA’s new committee structure has increased volunteer participation by 70 percent. We now have 187 volunteers on our seven committees, which focus on advocacy, food safety and sustainability, production management, research, supply chain management, water and land use, and workforce. Besides increasing member engagement, the new committees have produced more action items for the Board. If you are interested in participating, please talk with an FFVA staff member. This is the best way for your voice to be heard and to make a difference.

Our Emerging Leadership Development Program applications continue to increase every year. Again, this is an indication of the value and strength of this program.

The last number I want to share is two. It’s hard to believe that I have been FFVA chairman for two years, and it is time to hand off the position to my friend Paul Orsenigo. I want to thank my family, B&W Quality Growers, Graves Bros., my fellow board members and the FFVA staff for all of their support. We are truly blessed to have the best staff in the industry, and the association will only get stronger as we continue to grow our numbers going forward.


Alan TempleChairman

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President’s Message

In life it’s often helpful to take a look back at where you’ve just been, where you are now, and where you’re headed. That’s true for FFVA as an association as well.

In this annual report, we look back at the past season to highlight FFVA’s efforts and successes on behalf of you, our members. This year’s legislative session was extremely successful for us, with all of the bills FFVA supported becoming law. That’s the result of hard work in Tallahassee and elected leadership in the capital who are friends of agriculture. We also saw strong efforts this first year from our new committees, which are tackling key issues that affect producers.

When we consider what FFVA is doing today, you can be confident we are continuing to focus on existential threats to our industry. We are deeply involved in working to find solutions to citrus greening. We are at the table as plans are developed for water use in the future. We are equipping our members to comply with complicated and cumbersome food safety rules as they are rolled out.

In looking ahead to tomorrow, we know the upcoming elections will have an impact on agriculture. Despite the uncertainty, we are watching the presidential and congressional campaigns as well as those at the state level. Come Nov. 9, we’ll be ready to work with a new Congress and a new state Legislature to move our issues forward.

On another note, I want to sincerely thank Alan Temple for his two years of service as our chairman. His dedication has been evident as he advocated for the industry on key issues and shared his vision for the future of FFVA. And we look forward to the chairmanship of Paul Orsenigo over the next two years. We appreciate both of these terrific leaders.


Mike StuartPresident