Ag Perspective on the 2016 Legislative Session

bildeQ&A with Bill Braswell on Recent Bills Past

Bill Braswell, the current candidate for District 3 Polk County Commissioner and the past president of the Florida Blueberry Growers Association, answered some questions for The Blueberry News to help shed some ag perspective on the recent 2016 Florida Legislative Session.


The Blueberry News (TBN): What do you believe were some of the major high points from the recent Legislative Session? 

Bill Braswell, FBGA Past President: Ag was a big winner this session.  Some of the wins were as follows:

    • Increased penalties on individuals for the introduction of invasive pests/species to the state, including a felony charge if someone knowingly introduces a pest that results in the declaration of an agricultural emergency.

    • Allow citrus farmers who participate in the Citrus Health Response Program to retain their Greenbelt agricultural classification for up to five years after the removal of diseased citrus trees from their land.

    • Allow livestock grazing on conservation lands if the activity is a current or historic use of the land and if future livestock grazing within the conservation easement area is conducted in accordance with BMPs.

    • Legislation that prohibits local governments from assessing or collecting fire assessments or fees on agricultural land.

    • $1.1 million tax exemption for machinery and equipment used in agricultural post-harvest activities in packing houses.

    • Creates a new exemption from the Florida Fire Code for agricultural pole barns, which are nonresidential farm buildings in which 70 percent or more of the outer walls are permanently open. It also creates a process to regulate farm structures used for agritourism without using the burdensome and cost prohibitive fire code.

    • Prohibits local governments from enforcing existing ordinances on agritourism operations and clarifies that the definition of agritourism includes on-site civic and ceremonial events


TBN: How will the recent statewide water policy affect farming practices?

Braswell: It specifically addresses current and future water supply needs, water quality issues, support for the Central Florida Water Initiative, preservation and restoration of the Everglades, Florida’s springs, and the Florida Aquifer.


TBN: Will farmers already utilizing BMPs in their fields have an advantage with the new water policy coming into effect?

Braswell: Farmers operating under BMPs will be eligible for incentive-based programs.  These programs have not been developed yet though.


TBN: For the Styrofoam Preemption bill (HB 7007/SB 1010) that passed, is there any relevance of this legislation in the agriculture field? 

Braswell: I am not aware of any consequences for ag regarding this bill.

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