WASHINGTON, D.C. — Congress will enact new national policies on farming and conservation this fall and Florida’s delegation wants to ensure the bill delivers on their priorities.
Every five years, Congress passes a new Farm Bill that dictates funding and rules related to agriculture, nutrition, conservation and forestry. The last bill, passed in 2018, expires this year. An initial draft of the bill could arrive next month.
Fifteen of Florida’s federal lawmakers held a bipartisan meeting on Capitol Hill last week to discuss the best ways to distribute taxpayer dollars through the impactful legislation. Florida’s agriculture industry is the second largest in the nation, behind California.
FIGHTING OBESITY THROUGH SNAP
In an effort to mitigate obesity in America, U.S. Rep. Vern Buchanan (R-Sarasota) argued that homegrown produce could help upgrade food purchases made via the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP).
“We have fresh fruits and vegetables here [in Florida],” Buchanan said, according to Florida Politics. “We’ve got to find a way to get that more to families at risk – young children, everybody. It makes a big difference because we don’t have enough money to continue spending the dollars that we are on health care.”
REIMBURSING FARMERS IMPACTED BY HURRICANES
In June, U.S. Representatives Rep. Kat Cammack (R-Gainesville), Scott Franklin (R-Lakeland), Darren Soto (D-Kissimmee) and Debbie Wasserman Shultz (D-Weston) filed the “RAISE Act of 2023” – a proposal that would make it easier for the government to send taxpayer dollars to “producers of high-value crops (including citrus)” to pay for losses caused by natural disasters.
The Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services estimates those losses could be as high as $675 million. Over 90 percent of all Florida citrus production was impacted by hurricanes in 2022, according to an industry publication.
“When extreme weather threatens our crops, as is often the case in the Sunshine State, we must be prepared to help our farmers recover and continue the important work of feeding our nation,” Cammack said in a press release.
U.S. DESIGNED TECHNOLOGY TO HELP FARMERS
Dr. Scott Angle, Senior Vice President of the University of Florida’s Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences, advocated for artificial intelligence (AI) programs that could lower farming costs.
“Our mission is to find proven, real and effective artificial intelligence, computer vision, and robotics and automation platforms that are going to benefit [farmers and growers],” Matthew Donovan, CEO of the UF resident company Agriculture Intelligence, said at a Farm Bill listening session in April.
“While the agriculture challenges are global, it’s essential that U.S. growers, crop stakeholders like financial services, insurers and bankers support homegrown companies,” Donovan argued. “Many AI platforms that are attempting to serve the U.S. grower are outside the U.S. and filled with lots of promises they cannot deliver on.”