Farm Bureau Leader: UF/IFAS Analysis Shows the Destructive Effects of Mexican Farm Imports

A new economic analysis conducted by a University of Florida/Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences (UF/IFAS) team has confirmed that Mexican imports have significantly harmed fruit and vegetable producers in the Sunshine State.

A steadily increasing surge of Mexican products has entered the U.S. domestic market during Florida’s peak winter seasons since the North American Free Trade Agreement was implemented in 1993. Florida growers have lost large portions of the U.S. domestic market as well as sales volumes.

Using the period 2010 to 2018 for study, the UF/IFAS team focused on three farm products: tomatoes, strawberries and bell peppers. They found that as Mexican imports ballooned, production of these foods in Florida declined by 58%, 22% and 27%, respectively.

The researchers noted that “These trends are not expected to change unless something in the trade relationship changes.” The impact, they concluded, “will result in broader economic impacts across the state.”

Florida Farm Bureau President John L. Hoblick said the results of the analysis reinforce the conclusion that NAFTA has been a failure for many farmers in this state. “Our fruit and vegetable producers have been telling our public officials for more than 25 years how NAFTA has damaged their production and their livelihoods,” Hoblick declared. “They are in an economic crisis that can be averted by good faith negotiation with our Mexican neighbors.

“I urge President Trump and officials in his administration to pursue enhanced relief from cheap, largely unregulated Mexican imports before we lose an entire infrastructure in Florida and in other states in the Southeast,” he added. “The consequences of such a human-made disaster will affect Floridians as well as consumers throughout the nation.

“The new United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement does not go far enough to provide such relief. The Florida delegation’s unanimous endorsement of H.R. 101 points to a clear solution. Please support it.”

The UF/IFAS analysis is posted at https://fred.ifas.ufl.edu/pdf/economic-impact-analysis/MexicoFruit&Vegetable.pdf.

Hurricane Michael Sales Tax and Fuel Rebates for Farm Families

To help farm families struggling to recover from Hurricane Michael, the Florida Legislature passed a tax relief bill that included a rebate program for materials used to repair or replace farm fences and buildings damaged by the devastating storm.

In addition, Governor Ron DeSantis authorized a two-year bridge loan program for agricultural producers of field crops that were hammered by Hurricane Michael.

The deadline to apply for both programs is June 30, 2019.

Ag Apps for Summer Road Trips

Summer is the time for family vacations and long road trips.

American Farm Bureau Foundation for Agriculture’s My American Farm has many fun (and free) resources for young learners to explore and discover food, fiber and energy. 

The My American Farm Stem app includes four games covering technology, science, engineering and math. 

A Car Trip Bingo includes free bingo cards and provides entertainment for the whole family.

For more My American Farm family fun resources, visit http://myamericanfarm.com/family_fun/activities.

Food Security Improves in Florida

Most Florida households enjoy an adequate diet. That is, their access to nutrition is adequate for sustaining good health.

The percentage of households without adequate food is declining, according to survey data collected by the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Economic Research Service.

Data from the 2017 survey show that less than 12% of Florida households in the state face a limitation or uncertain availability of food. In 2011, the figure was 15.4%.

Across the nation, rates of food insecurity were higher than the average of 11.8% for specific groups and for people living in particular locations.

Those categories included households with incomes near or below the federal poverty line, households with children and particularly households with children headed by single women or single men, women and men living alone, black and Hispanic-headed households and households in principal cities and nonmetropolitan areas.

For more information about the survey, visit http://bit.ly/2ERFrB5. (Photo Courtesy of Peggy Greb, USDA/ARS)

Safe Practices for Grilling Food

More than half of all residents in this country say they cook outdoors year-round. Follow these simple guidelines from the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Food Safety and Inspection Service for grilling food safely.

Be sure there are plenty of clean utensils and platters.

If you are grilling and eating away from home, use a source of clean water. If not, bring water for preparation and cleaning or pack clean cloths and moist towelettes for cleaning surfaces and hands.

◾To prevent foodborne illness, do not use the same platter, cutting board or utensils for raw and cooked foods.

◾Cook food to a safe minimum internal temperature to destroy harmful bacteria. Use a food thermometer to ensure the food has reached a safe minimum internal temperature.

◾Keep meat and poultry refrigerated until ready to use. Only take out what will immediately be placed on the grill.

◾Keep coolers out of the direct sunlight. Pack beverages in one cooler and perishables in a separate cooler.

◾After cooking meat and poultry, keep it hot until served – at 140°F (60°C) or warmer.

For more information, visit http://bit.ly/2YNJg1U.

Florida Farm Bureau President Expresses Appreciation for Congressional Action on Disaster Recovery

Florida Farm Bureau President Expresses Appreciation for Congressional Action on Disaster Recovery

June 4, 2019

Florida Farm Bureau President John L. Hoblick said he appreciated the work by Congress to approve the new aid package for farm families struggling to recover from weather-related disasters in the past year.

“Farmers and ranchers in areas of Florida and elsewhere in our nation are working hard to restore production of food and fiber after surviving massive destruction from hurricanes and other severe weather,” Hoblick said. “Recovery for many these farm families will be impossible without outside help.

“The Florida Panhandle is still in economic shock because of Hurricane Michael,” Hoblick added. “In some locations the entire agricultural infrastructure must be rebuilt.”

“We thank members of Florida’s Congressional delegation for their diligent efforts at shepherding the legislation through to adoption. Without it, a large number of farm families will lose their livelihoods.”

Hoblick also noted that Florida Farm Bureau members had a major hand in securing passage of the farm assistance. “Our grassroots volunteers have made their voices heard in the halls of Congress and elsewhere in Washington,” he said. “They have conveyed the extent of the storm damage they have suffered and the burdens they face to recover.”

Public Relations Division Captures National Award

Florida Farm Bureau Federation’s Public Relations Division has earned a top national honor for producing the organization’s 2019 Annual Report.

In May the American Farm Bureau Federation (AFBF) recognized the report with the Best Graphic Design award “for a pamphlet, brochure, special publication or premium item that best promotes Farm Bureau.”

The Florida document summarized the progress in a wide range of activities and programs during the 2019 Farm Bureau membership year.

Work on the content and design of the document was a team effort by staff members in the division.

FFBF’s 2019 Photo Contest is Now Open

Florida Farm Bureau Federation’s 2019 Photo Contest is accepting photos for its online photo contest.

The contest is open to all Florida Farm Bureau members who do not receive a regular income from photography.

Categories for winning photos include On the Farm, Natural Florida and Wildlife and Children, Families and Pets.

Participants have the opportunity to win $500.

The deadline for submissions is 5 p.m. on August 9, 2019.

Enter your winning photo at https://floridafarmbureau.formstack.com/forms/2019photocontest.

Farm Bureau President’s Statement on Disaster Aid

Florida Farm Bureau President Expresses Appreciation for Congressional Action on Disaster Recovery | Florida Farm Bureau

Florida Farm Bureau President John L. Hoblick said he appreciated the work by Congress to approve the new aid package for farm families struggling to recover from weather-related disasters in the past year.

“Farmers and ranchers in areas of Florida and elsewhere in our nation are working hard to restore production of food and fiber after surviving massive destruction from hurricanes and other severe weather,” Hoblick said. “Recovery for many these farm families will be impossible without outside help.

“The Florida Panhandle is still in economic shock because of Hurricane Michael,” Hoblick added. “In some locations the entire agricultural infrastructure must be rebuilt.”

“We thank members of Florida’s Congressional delegation for their diligent efforts at shepherding the legislation through to adoption. Without it, a large number of farm families will lose their livelihoods.”

Hoblick also noted that Florida Farm Bureau members had a major hand in securing passage of the farm assistance. “Our grassroots volunteers have made their voices heard in the halls of Congress and elsewhere in Washington,” he said. “They have conveyed the extent of the storm damage they have suffered and the burdens they face to recover.”

Grassroots Members Advocate for Disaster Relief and Trade Reform

More than 70 county Farm Bureau leaders from across the Sunshine State traveled to the nation’s capital to discuss various federal policies that affect agriculture and rural communities. The annual Field to the Hill trip, May 14-16, gave volunteer leaders the opportunity to advocate on such priority issues as hurricane disaster relief for the Panhandle, water quality in South Florida, trade policy reform and agricultural labor.

The trip included a welcoming reception at the Embassy of Canada in partnership with the University of Florida/Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences, where attendees were greeted by the Canadian Ambassador to the U.S., David McNaughton.

Grassroots members spent a full day on Capitol Hill visiting with Congressional members. The trip concluded with a visit to the United States Department of Agriculture.

To read more about the 2019 Field to the Hill trip, watch for the June issue of FloridAgriculture magazine.

Watermelon is a Popular, Important Crop

By most measures, watermelon remains a valuable fruit crop throughout the world and provides a rich source of health-promoting compounds.

The crop is grown commercially in 44 states across the nation, with the highest production in Georgia, Florida, Texas, California and Arizona. Twenty-three percent of the U.S. crop is produced in Florida with a value of $136 million.

Watermelon has a long history in the United States. A large number of watermelon cultivars have been developed since the mid-19th century.

A USDA/Agricultural Research Service team has recently completed a landmark project that sequenced the fruit’s genome. This project identified genes that control disease resistance and fruit qualities, giving researchers and growers a valuable tool for future production.

(Photo courtesy of USDA/ARS)

Farm Leader Salutes Gov. DeSantis for Hurricane Recovery Loan Program

Florida Farm Bureau President John L. Hoblick has expressed his appreciation for the decision by Gov. Ron DeSantis to authorize a major state loan program for farm families struggling with recovery from the damage inflicted by Hurricane Michael.

“We thank Governor DeSantis for his bold leadership in initiating this program,” Hoblick said. “Six months after the storm crushed the region, many Panhandle farmers and ranchers are still in desperate need of assistance.

“Governor DeSantis has stepped up to lend a hand for families threatened with the loss of their livelihoods. We are profoundly grateful that he has answered Florida Farm Bureau’s call for help at this time of great need.”

DeSantis announced the establishment of the temporary loan program on May 15 during the Governor’s Hurricane Conference in West Palm Beach. Under its terms, applicants can borrow up to $200,000 for use in rebuilding and restoring agricultural operations. Farm families will have two years to repay the money they receive and will pay no interest on the debt.

Farmers in the Panhandle region echoed the Farm Bureau leader’s praise for the Governor’s action. Jeff Pittman, a fourth-generation grower in Jackson County, said a no-interest loan could be the key to financial survival for some families. “Restoring a farm after a hurricane like this one is a long-term task,” Pittman said. “You first have to recover your capacity to produce something, then you have to grow it so you can sell it.

“I thank the Governor for his initiative,” Pittman added. “I know a lot of my neighbors will be thankful that our state’s chief executive has not forgotten the tragedy we have experienced here.”

Calhoun County farmer Henry McCrone said the program is a welcome support. “I am pleased that the Governor has demonstrated his commitment to assist us,” McCrone said. “This is good news for agriculture in Northwest Florida.”

According to a report by researchers at the University of Florida/Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences, crop, animal and animal product losses due to Hurricane Michael totaled $138 million. Storm-related destruction to timber and forestlands has cost at least $1.3 billion.

“We look forward to working with the Governor during this period of rebuilding and restoration,” Hoblick said. “Our farm families now have an additional, practical tool to use as they recover from this unprecedented natural disaster.”

Also In This Section

Review: Glyphosate is No Health Risk

A new study shows that the cancer risk from the herbicide glyphosate is extremely low for most people who are exposed to it.

The primary ingredient in such products as Roundup, glyphosate is applied for weed control on properties ranging from farms and ranches to residential yards and golf courses.

Scientists at the National Institutes of Health, the University of Iowa, the State Health Registry of Iowa and Drexel University participated in the research. They evaluated the cancer incidence between 1993 and 2005 in more than 54,000 licensed pesticide applicators in North Carolina and Iowa.

According to the researchers, “no association was apparent between glyphosate and any solid tumors or lymphoid malignancies.”

Although they did find a slight increase in risk for leukemia in individuals who had high levels of exposure to the chemical compared to those who never used the material, they explained that “this association was not statistically significant.”

A report of the study was published in the Journal of the National Cancer Institute. The authors call for other researchers to replicate their findings, given the widespread use of the herbicide worldwide.

Four Florida Teachers Selected for 2019 On the Farm STEM

The American Farm Bureau Foundation for Agriculture  announced participants for On the Farm STEM professional development events. The training is designed to bring science to life for young people with the help of American beef cattle ranchers, researchers, nutritionists and veterinarians.

Catrina Liptak, Beachside Montessori Village;  Sheila Watson, Leon County Schools; Sheryl Arriola, Broward County Public School District; and Amanda Mortimer, Coral Springs High School were among 60 participants selected out of 550 applications. The participants will travel to Kansas City, Kansas and Syracuse, New York for the training programs.

The Beef Checkoff Program funded development of the training and supporting resources.

For more information, visit On the Farm for information about how to build awareness, understanding and a positive public perception of agriculture through education.

Farmers from the Suwannee and Santa Fe River Basins Recognized for Environmental Leadership

Eleven farmers and ranchers were honored for their environmental stewardship with a County Alliance for Responsible Environmental Stewardship (CARES) award on May 2 at the UF/IFAS North Florida Research and Education Center-Suwannee Valley during the 19th Annual Suwannee CARES Celebration.

This year’s Suwannee CARES recipients included:

Alachua County – William McGehee

Bradford County – Andrew Strickland

Columbia County – Troy Moseley

Gilchrist County – Mark Bishop

Hamilton County – Ryan McCulley

Jefferson County – Ben White

Lafayette County  -Adrian Land

Madison County – Buck Carpenter

Suwannee County – Cliff Starling

Taylor County – Andy Jackson

Union County – Justin Howard

The CARES program was established by Florida Farm Bureau and the Suwannee River Partnership in 2001 to recognize superior natural resource conservation by agricultural producers.  The program relies on action by farmers and ranchers to implement state-of-the-art natural resource management systems, or Best Management Practices, on their properties.

“Florida’s farmers and ranchers answer the call to protect our environment while also producing our food supply,” said Florida Farm Bureau CARES Coordinator Cacee Hilliard.  “Demonstrating outstanding efforts to implement practices that reduce water and nutrient use and also improve water quality is the basis for a producer being awarded a This Farm CARES designation and sign.  The customized CARES sign is a farmer/rancher’s tool to demonstrate to the general public that they are committed to protecting local natural resources.”

Florida’s farmers and ranchers depend upon the life-sustaining capacity of the natural resources they manage to maintain their livelihoods. Nearly 800 agriculturists statewide have received the CARES award since the program was established.

CARES has become a model for the rest of the nation. The program has a partnerships with more than 60 public agencies, including the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Natural Resource and Conservation Service, the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services, the University of Florida’s Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences, the Florida Department of Environmental Protection and Florida’s water management districts, agricultural organizations, businesses and local governments.

Hurricane Preparedness Week

Hurricane Preparedness Week is May 5-11, 2019.

Floridians know all too well the extensive damages that can be suffered from tropical cyclones.  Threats from hurricanes can vary depending upon where residents live. The best way to protect your family from a hurricane is to prepare before the storm hits.

The 2019 hurricane season is from June 1 to Nov. 30. According to AccuWeather, there will be five to seven hurricanes this year.

The National Weather Service is urging citizens to help spread the word about Hurricane Preparedness Week on social media. A series of graphics and sample posts have been created to share on various social media platforms to help kick-off the week:

  • Determine your risk
  • Develop an evacuation plan
  • Assemble disaster supplies
  • Get an insurance checkup
  • Strengthen your home
  • Help your neighbor
  • Complete your written plan

 To share graphics and view tips on preparing for weather risks for your home and community, visit https://www.weather.gov/wrn/hurricane-preparedness.

NAP Buy-Up Coverage Option & Enhancements for Military Veterans

USDA’s Farm Service Agency (FSA) has announced that higher levels of coverage will be offered through the Non-insured Crop Disaster Assistance Program (NAP) through May 24, 2019. Producers can obtain buy-up coverage for eligible 2019 or 2020 crops for which the NAP application closing date has passed.

The 2018 Farm Bill reinstates higher levels of coverage, from 50 to 65% of expected production in 5% increments, at 100% of the average market price.

Producers of organics and crops marketed directly to consumers also may use the buy-up option to obtain NAP coverage of 100% of the average market price at the coverage levels of between 50 and 65% of expected production. NAP basic coverage is available at 55% of the average market price for crop losses that exceed 50% of expected production.

NAP provides financial assistance to producers of non-insurable crops when low yields, loss of inventory, or prevented planting occur due to natural disasters. Buy-up coverage is not available for crops intended for grazing.

Under the 2018 Farm Bill, qualified military veterans are eligible for a NAP service fee waiver and premium reduction when they file form CCC-860, “Socially Disadvantaged, Limited Resource and Beginning Farmers or Rancher Certification.”

For more information, visit http://www.fsa.usda.gov/nap.

At-Home Food Costs Moderate

During the past decade, decreasing farm gate and wholesale food prices have moderated grocery store prices for virtually all food groups, according to the USDA’s Economic Research Service. 

In 2018 retail food prices rose 0.4%. This was the first increase in three years. Although prices for pork, other meats, dairy, and processed fruits and vegetables declined between 2017 and 2018, prices for all other major food categories increased. Eggs saw the largest annual average increase at 10.8 percent.

For 2019 the agency predicts grocery store prices will increase at an average below 1.5% or substantially less than the economy’s rate of inflation.

By contrast, restaurant prices primarily comprise labor and rental costs with only a small portion going toward food. Decreasing farm-level and wholesale food prices, which have exerted downward pressure on food-at-home prices, will have less of an impact on restaurant menu prices.

For more information, visit https://www.ers.usda.gov/data-products/food-price-outlook/summary-findings/.

USDA Launches Ace the Waste! Contest for Students

USDA), is launching Ace the Waste! competition. The competition calls for students to come up with creative solutions to reduce food loss and waste domestically.

More than one third of food in the United States is lost or wasted, which amounts to about $161 billion worth of food each year.

Students may submit either a written or video proposal that will be judged on potential, originality and creativity; clarity of expression and appropriateness to theme.

One winner will be selected from each of two categories: ages 11-14 and ages 15-18. The winners of the contest will be honored with recognition on USDA’s social media accounts and its website, receive a certificate of appreciation and have the opportunity to discuss their proposals with USDA leadership.

The deadline for proposals is 5 p.m. EDT, Friday, May 24, 2019.

Zika is Still a Threat

Female Yellow fever mosquito, Aedes aegypti. Photo taken 03/14/16.

Although no outbreak of illness from the Zika virus has been reported in Florida in recent months, it poses a danger.

Yellow fever and Asian tiger mosquitoes found in the state – and infected with the Zika virus – are good at transmitting the virus, new University of Florida research shows.

In rare cases, the virus can cause paralysis (Guillain-Barré Syndrome) and birth defects.

Researchers at the university’s Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences and across the globe are keeping a close eye on the virus and studying how it is transmitted from mosquitoes to people.

“Despite the absence of current local transmission in Florida, Zika will remain a public health threat for the foreseeable future in the Americas,” said Barry Alto, an associate professor of entomology at the UF/IFAS Florida Medical Entomology Laboratory (FMEL) in Vero Beach, Florida.

Residents should follow standard precautions to protect themselves from mosquito bites. Follow guidelines issued by the Centers for Disease Control at http://bit.ly/2UWTUWn.

(Photo courtesy of UF/IFAS)