Let’s face it: Politics are always a mixed bag. There are always hot-button topics that prove difficult to navigate, but when the good outweighs the bad like it overwhelmingly did in this 2023 Florida Legislative session, I’d call that a win.
An estimated 1,700 bills were filed, only roughly 300 of which passed. Fortunately, the Legislature and Gov. Ron DeSantis delivered some home runs for Florida ag at a time when the industry was long overdue for some good news.
To start with, the creation of the Florida Farm TEAM (Tax Exempt Agricultural Materials) Card cut through the bureaucratic barriers that made it so difficult for growers to make tax-exempt purchases. It also finally brought the entire process into the 20th century, replacing cumbersome paper processes with technology. That bill included even more benefits for the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services, which was placed in charge of developing the state’s aquaculture industry.
In addition, lawmakers:
- Agreed to pour $49.5 million into the citrus industry to aid research, infrastructure, and replanting.
- Restricted foreign ownership of agricultural land, something Florida Ag Commissioner Wilton Simpson has been very open about supporting.
- Stopped counties from levying special assessments on agricultural land unless it is explicitly for debt service.
- Increased the estimated value threshold that requires two appraisals to be conducted for a conservation easement from $1 million to $5 million.
- Allotted $100 million in the Land Acquisition Trust Fund for the Rural and Family Lands Protection Program.
- Dedicated $4 million for the Land Acquisition Trust Fund to restore public and private lands.
It’s heartening to know that growers’ and ranchers’ voices are being heard in Tallahassee and beyond.