As if the battle against greening and development weren’t enough to handle, Florida farmers are facing yet another threat to their livelihoods and the food security they provide. Florida Agriculture Commissioner Wilton Simpson isn’t taking this threat lightly, and it’s a sentiment I’m hoping more and more people adopt.
During a recent interview with News 6, Simpson detailed how it’s essential to view food as a national security concern.
The issue is the prospect of Chinese investors purchasing agricultural land in Florida, as they have done in other states, such as North Dakota, where a Chinese company proposed building a corn-milling facility on agricultural land located just 12 miles away from an Air Force base.
State legislators are working hard to pass bill SB 264 quickly to prevent foreign investors from purchasing agricultural land or any property within 20 miles of a military base in the state.
Simpson and his team drafted the bill, titled “Interests of Foreign Countries,” and the restriction applies only to “countries of concern,” including China, Russia, and North Korea, among others.
Chinese companies hold more than 330,000 acres of American farmland, roughly 6 percent of the U.S.’s agricultural land. It is not clear exactly how much agricultural land in Florida is in the hands of Chinese investors at this time.
Simpson isn’t just trying to protect our future, though. He’s looking out for the interests of Florida farmers and families who are struggling as we speak by advancing a bill that would prohibit local special assessment of taxes on buildings used in agricultural activities.
Farmers cannot bear that burden, he says, and he’s right. Now we just need to get as many people as possible in Tallahassee to understand that.
This article is sponsored by Labor Solutions, and the opinions expressed herein may not reflect those of Central Florida Ag News or of its advertisers.
BIO: Baxter Troutman is founder and chief executive officer of Labor Solutions, a staffing company with offices in Bartow, Winter Haven, Lake Wales, Arcadia, and Plant City. You also can visit his Dark Hammock Legacy Ranch online at www.DH-LR.com. A cattle rancher and citrus grower who served in the Florida House of Representatives, Troutman understands the challenges and concerns of today’s farmer.