September 19, 2023

Agriculture Ministry wants increases for first responders, funding for water and climate change

The Ministry of Agriculture and Consumer Services calls for $ 150 million in the next budget, including nearly $ 6 million to fund salary increases for the ministry’s first responders.

The agency released its funding request on Monday at the start of the first week of legislative committee hearings. Agriculture Commissioner Nikki fried, which is also mount a campaign for the Democratic nomination for governor, heads the department.

“Despite the challenges of operating during an ongoing pandemic, our primary mission remains the same: to protect the public and support Florida agriculture,” Fried said. “Our budget priorities are solution-oriented and critical not only to the success of our department, but also to our state. “

An exit from the Department of Agriculture, the agency is requesting $ 119 million from state trust funds – including $ 11 million from federal grants – and an additional $ 31 million from general revenues.

Fried’s agency wants to withdraw $ 2.9 million from general revenue to increase the base salary of members of the department’s Agricultural Law Enforcement Office. According to the proposal, the base salary would be increased to almost $ 42,000.

The request also targets just under $ 3 million from the Land Acquisition Trust Fund to fund a $ 2,500 pay rise for Florida Forest Service firefighters.

“Over the past three years, Florida Forest Service personnel have responded to an average of 4,672 fires that have burned a total of 147,169 acres,” the statement said. “Florida firefighters and fire support personnel respond to harsh conditions 24 hours a day, 365 days a year to protect the citizens of Florida from wildfires. “

The Ministry of Agriculture is also asking for substantial funding for water policy issues and climate change mitigation. The budget request includes nearly $ 28 million from the Land Acquisition Trust Fund for water-related projects and an additional $ 2 million for the Florida Carbon Sequestration and Land Protection Program. The latter program will help plant trees to reduce carbon dioxide emissions.

The agency is asking for $ 10 million to retain water and reduce harmful nutrients outside the Lake Okeechobee watershed.

An additional $ 5 million would go to similar efforts “at the basin, sub-basin and farm level in the Lake Okeechobee watershed, including precision farming cost-sharing programs such as applications technological fertilizers, applicable cover crop rotations and land management tools. An additional $ 5 million would fund cost-shared projects in areas covered by basin management action plans, such as the Indian River Lagoon Basin and the St. Lucia River and Estuary.

A handful of small water supply projects would also benefit from funding under the plan.

“Funding these sensible and financially responsible priorities will save lives and property by supporting our wildland firefighters and farm law enforcement officers; protect and improve our water sources; to ensure that Florida’s agriculture industry remains globally competitive in the face of current and emerging challenges, and nurture the booming hemp and hemp extract inhalation industries capable of creating billions of dollars economic potential, ”Fried added.

On the hemp issue, the ministry is requesting $ 1.9 million from the General Inspectorate Trust Fund to finance inspections of retailers selling hemp products. Another $ 1.3 million in general revenue funds would cover inspections at establishments selling vaping products. This latest pot of money would also help study whether vapes comply with the rules for dangerous contaminants and additives.

Other significant budget items include $ 20 million in resources from the Land Acquisition Trust Fund for the Rural and Family Land Protection Program. This program helps maintain Florida farmland by acquiring permanent conservation easements.

More than $ 8.7 million in general revenue funds would go to the Florida Farm Promotion Campaign to help promote Florida farmers. Another $ 8 million from the Agricultural Emergency Eradication Trust Fund would go towards citrus greening research.

With lawmakers gathered in Tallahassee this week to prepare for the 2022 legislative session, requests for funding will be pouring in. The legislature will deal with these requests in the weeks and months to come. The 60-day session begins in January.

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