Tom Rooney – Florida Politics
Vern Buchanan

Florida’s congressional Republicans targeted in billboard blitz

A national progressive group announced Monday that 30 congressional Republicans nationwide would wake up to find unflattering billboards in their districts, including four in Florida.

The billboards, part of the “Not One Penny” campaign started last year by Tax March, blast Sarasota U.S. Rep. Vern Buchanan, Lakeland U.S. Rep. Dennis Ross, Panama City U.S. Rep. Neal Dunn and Punta Gorda U.S. Rep. Tom Rooney for the tax breaks they’re set to receive under the plan passed by Congress late last year.

Both Rooney and Ross have announced they will not run for re-election in 2018.

“Congressional Republicans have given themselves tax breaks. This is textbook corruption: lining their pockets while raising taxes on the middle class,” said Not One Penny Spokesperson Tim Hogan.

“They need to be called out for putting themselves ahead of their constituents. Working families deserve better from their elected officials and will hold them accountable for voting to undermine the well-being of families across the nation.”

The billboards, part of a six-figure ad campaign, each list the tax cut a particular Congressman will receive, followed by the query “what did you get?” in all caps. The bottom line of the billboards points readers to RepealTheTrumpTax.org.

The site features an email signup sheet accompanied by the following statement:

“Despite enormous public opposition, Congress passed the GOP tax scam bill, which will raise taxes for 92 million middle-class families, rip health care away from 13 million people, and threaten life-saving programs — all to give tax breaks to millionaires, billionaires, and wealthy corporations.

“WE HAVE TO FIGHT BACK.”

Buchanan is set to save the most of the four Florida targets, with his billboard saying he “voted for the tax law and gave himself up to a $2,131,750 tax break.” That windfall ranks second among the 30 advertisements listed in the Not One Penny release, coming behind only Indiana U.S. Rep. Trey Hollingsworth.

Rooney’s billboard claims his tax break was up to $600,250, while Ross’ shows up to $100,000, and Dunn’s says $19,316.

The release announcing the billboards said the figures were based on a recently released study from the Center for American Progress, a progressive public policy research and advocacy group.

Images of the billboards are below.

Julio Gonzalez takes early lead over Greg Steube in CD 17 money race

State Rep. Julio Gonzalez leads state Sen. Greg Steube in the race for Florida’s 17th Congressional District in the early going thanks to a sizable loan to his campaign account.

Gonzalez, a Sarasota Republican, brought in nearly $234,000 in contributions during the first few weeks of his campaign, with $150,000 of that money coming in through candidate loans. He had $230,000 on hand on March 31.

Steube, also a Sarasota Republican, raised $63,550 for his campaign, including a $15,000 loan. He finished the first quarter with about $56,000 in the bank.

Gonzalez and Steube both filed for the sprawling congressional district in March, shortly after Republican U.S. Rep. Tom Rooney announced he would not seek re-election in 2018.

A few other candidates have filed for the race, though none raised close to Gonzalez or Steube in total fundraising or cash on hand.

Democrat William Pollard has raised about $7,000 through Q1, with about $6,000 on hand, while April Freeman, the 2016 Democratic nominee, had $19,500 in her account at the end of 2017. A third Republican, William Alan Akins, had about $500 in his account through the end of Q4.

CD 17 covers parts of Sarasota, Lee and Polk counties as well as the whole of Charlotte, DeSoto, Glades, Hardee, Highlands and Okeechobee.

The seat is a Republican stronghold that voted plus-27 for Donald Trump in 2016. Also in 2016, Rooney won re-election with nearly 62 percent of the vote, while Freeman received about 34 percent and unaffiliated candidate John Sawyer took 4 percent.

Four candidates running for Julio Gonzalez’ House seat

Four candidates have filed for the state House seat being given up by Republican Rep. Julio Gonzalez so he can pursue the congressional seat currently held by U.S. Rep. Tom Rooney.

Republican Nicholas Trolli opened his campaign account ahead of Gonzalez’ announcement he would run for Florida’s 17th Congressional District, and since then another three candidates have entered the race.

The most recognizable by far is Republican James Buchanan, who was his party’s nominee in the recent special election for House District 72, which was ultimately won by Democratic Rep. Margaret Good.

HD 74 is the third district Buchanan, the son of U.S. Rep. Vern Buchanan, has filed for – he initially sought HD 71 before switching over to the HD 72 special.

Trolli filed for the seat on Feb. 28 but reported no contributions for the final day of the month, putting him and Buchanan on even financial footing in the Republican Primary albeit with a three-week head start for Trolli.

Also running for the seat are a pair of Democrats. Yves Junior Chery opened a campaign account on March 15 and Timothy Fitzgerald followed five days later.

House District 74 covers southern Sarasota County, including Venice and Northport and has a hefty advantage for Republicans.

The district voted 60-37 in favor of President Donald Trump in the 2016 election. By comparison, neighboring HD 72 voted 50-46 for Trump.

Gonzalez ran a couple points ahead of Trump two years ago, beating Democrat Manny Lopez 63-37 on Election Day.

What’s next for Sunshine State News?

Last week, Sunshine State News, the right-leaning news website covering Florida politics, celebrated its eighth anniversary.

In the brutal economy of journalism, that’s no small feat. Sunshine State News has been around longer than Florida Politics or POLITICO Florida. And it’s maintained a presence in Tallahassee when other legacy media outlets, such as the Palm Beach Post, have abandoned their capital outposts.

SSN’s longevity is due in no small part to it being in the right place at the right time.

“When our first Sunshine State News team arrived wide-eyed in Tallahassee in 2010, all hell was about to break loose, and we didn’t know it,” editor Nancy Smith wrote in a post marking the site’s anniversary on March 3. “Gov. Charlie Crist believed he had a lock on a U.S. Senate seat, Attorney General Bill McCollum was riding comfortably toward the governorship, and nobody I know had ever heard of multimillionaire hospital executive Rick Scott.”

“But, oh, how the rise of the tea party in Florida shattered those expectations. And SSN fit right in with the surprises.”

In fact, more than one critic suspected that SSN was/is being secretly financed by Scott, or at least forces aligned with him.

SSN’s reluctance to reveal its ownership is one of the main issues many people in The Process have with the outlet. The Tampa Bay Times Lucy Morgan tried her best to get to the bottom of the issue, but could not come up with a firm answer. Others have linked the site to Florida’s sugar industry, but I believe the connection there is due more to Smith’s work history with The Stuart News and her experience covering environmental issues than anything else.

SSN says it has an editorial board; on a page dubbed “The Sunshine Way,” the site contends, “We are the only news organization in Florida with an editorial board that believes free-market, less-government solutions will prove successful in addressing the problems challenging our state.” However, it’s never been revealed who is a member of Sunshine State News’ editorial board, nor does the site publish unsigned editorials as other legacy media organizations do.

As much as one can be, I’m something of an expert on the cost of maintaining a digital-only news website in Florida. Once you do the math, it’s pretty amazing that SSN is still standing.

Assuming that Smith earns at least $60,000 a year, that SSN’s capital reporter (it had been Allison Nielsen until she took a job with Congressman Tom Rooney) makes approximately $45,000 per annum, as does federal writer Kevin Derby and a copy/web editor, you’re close to $200,000 a year just in salaries. Those are conservative figures, and they don’t account for benefits, if there are any. Then again, maybe Derby does double-duty as the copy/web editor. Also, the size of the staff has fluctuated throughout SSN’s eight-year run.

Still, with expenses like a subscription to the News Service of Florida’s feed, it’s easy to get to SSN costing at least a quarter-million dollars a year to operate.

On the revenue side, the site does have limited display advertising, but its mostly slots reserved for the Google Ad Choices program. Occasionally, if not rarely, SSN displays ads about an event or issue linked to the legislative session, but, again, those ads seem to run few and far between. If SSN hauls in $50K per year in advertising, I would be greatly surprised.

Bottom line: one or more people or companies are expending, by my math, at least $200K to keep SSN afloat. That’s real money. That’s much more money than any single advertiser is spending at my shop.

It’s difficult to understand why anyone would spend that kind of money on a political news website covering Florida politics.

If the purpose, as some suspected, was to defeat Crist and elect Scott, well, first of all, you have to really not like Crist (there are certainly folks out there who fall into this category) and you have to really like Scott (there are not many politicos who do not already donate heavily to his political committee.)

Besides, Crist vs. Scott was settled in 2014, so if putting Scott in the Governor’s Mansion was the ultimate objective, why keep spending $200K a year on a pet journalism project?

If the sugar industry is footing the SSN bill — a concept I highly doubt — that would be surprising because the operatives who make the decisions for Big Sugar are smart enough to know there are better ways to spend their money than having Smith write the occasional piece about the Southwest Florida Water Management District.

Perhaps it’s a consortium of interests, lobbyists and politicos who each kick in, say, $10K a year to keep SSN going. It makes more sense than Scott or sugar being behind the website, but you’d think that after eight years, some part of the secret arrangement would get out. I know many of the folks who would pay $10,000 to support business-friendly, right-leaning online journalism in Florida and I haven’t heard a peep in eight years. And I’ve asked and investigated.

The hard truth is we really don’t know who pays the bills at Sunshine State News, but it’s someone or a handful of people who is/are willing to have parted with more than a million dollars to keep Smith, Derby, et al. going. That’s an extraordinary investment in Florida politics.

And, according to Smith, Sunshine State News plans on sticking around for a while. During a recent conversation, she said she was actively looking for a replacement for Nielsen.

So much for the idea that SSN wouldn’t be around when Scott leaves Tallahassee, either for Naples or Washington D.C.

Ray Pilon planning return to House District 72

Former Rep. Ray Pilon is planning a return to the Legislature, but it isn’t due to the seismic shakeup caused by U.S. Rep. Tom Rooney’s announcement that he won’t run for re-election.

The Sarasota Republican said in an email to Florida Politics that he plans to file for House District 72, the seat he held before running for state Senate in 2016.

Republican Alex Miller took over HD 72 when Pilon left, but stepped down after less than a year in office. Earlier this month, Democrat Margaret Good bested Republican James Buchanan in the special election to replace Miller.

Since HD 72 is held by a Democrat, it hasn’t been as ripe for speculation after Rooney’s bombshell announcement.

Nearly every other officeholder in the Sarasota area has been pegged as a potential candidate for Florida’s 17th Congressional District, or at the very least Sen. Greg Steube’s SD 23, which is opening up due to his own aspirations for Rooney’s seat.

Pilon had even been floated as a possible candidate for CD 17, but HD 72 it is.

When Pilon files, he’ll join Good, Libertarian Alison Foxall and Republican Alexandra Coe in the race.

Coe filed for the HD 72 special election, but failed to qualify for the ballot.

Pilon ran up the score in past elections to HD 72, but it remains to be seen whether the so-called “blue wave” that pushed Good past Buchanan will be present come November.

Pilon beat Democrat Greg Para with 58 percent of the vote in 2014, and in 2012 he defeated Democrat Liz Alpert 54-46. In 2010 he scored a 3-point victory over Democrat Keith Fitzgerald in the old House District 69.

Neither Good nor Foxall have filed campaign finance reports for the 2018 race due to the special election cycle, though Good was able to pull in plenty of money in that contest.

She had nearly $75,000 on hand in her campaign account and $28,124 in her political committee days before the election.

Final campaign finance reports from the special election are due in May.

Greg Steube

Greg Steube is running for Congress; seeks seat being vacated by Tom Rooney

Sarasota Republican Sen. Greg Steube announced Monday that he will run for Florida’s 17th Congressional District.

“I’m running because Washington is broken; it needs to serve the people it was intended to serve, Floridians; rather than special interests in DC,” Steube said in an email.

“My entire adult life has been about service, I enlisted in the Infantry after September 11 because I wanted to serve my country in the war on terror, after service in the military I served the state of Florida in the Florida House for 6 years, and the Florida Senate for the last 2 years.

“As a pro-life, pro 2nd Amendment, anti-illegal immigration fighter for our constitutional rights I will proudly support [President Donald] Trump and his agenda in Washington and I’m proud to have the backing of Florida’s law enforcement because they know they’ll have my support.”

Steube’s announcement also broached veterans’ issues and the national policy discussion following the Feb. 14 shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland that left 17 dead.

“We need to make a change and it needs to happen today to protect our children. For years I have advocated for providing extensive training for those willing to protect our children in our schools and I’m very happy that President Trump supports a program that I have advocated for years,” he said.

“Securing our schools, taking threats seriously, and further funding our mental health programs are absolutely necessary.”

Along with the announcement, Steube included a long list of endorsements.

Early backers include Senate President Joe Negron, Senate President Designate Bill Galvano, Senate Majority Leader Wilton Simpson, Naples Republican Sen. Kathleen Passidomo, Lakeland Republican Sen. Kelli Stargel as well as the sheriffs of Charlotte, Highlands, Hardee, Okeechobee and Glades counties.

CD 17 is currently held by Republican U.S. Rep. Tom Rooney, who announced last week that he would not run for re-election in the fall. The district covers parts of Sarasota, Lee and Polk counties as well as the whole of Charlotte, DeSoto, Glades, Hardee, Highlands and Okeechobee.

The seat is a Republican stronghold that voted plus-27 for Trump in 2017.

Steube is the first of many interested Republican state lawmakers to file for the seat.

Other possible entrants include Fort Myers Republican Sen. Lizbeth Benacquisto, Port Charlotte Rep. Michael Grant, Wauchula Rep. Ben Albritton, and Sarasota Reps. Joe Gruters and Julio Gonzalez, though Gruters could be just as interested in taking over Steube’s Senate seat.

Sarasota County Sheriff Tom Knight has said he will not run for the seat, as have the three Republicans running for Agriculture Commissioner – Lehigh Acres Rep. Matt Caldwell, Sebring Sen. Denise Grimsley and former Winter Haven Rep. Baxter Troutman.

Steube’s full endorsement list is below.

Steube Endorsement List

How the dominoes could fall after ‘Rooney out’

Last week U.S. Rep. Tom Rooney put out the “Rooney out” message, launching a wave of speculation over who could step in and win the heavily Republican CD 17 in the fall.

So far, all the GOP candidates running to replace Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam – former Winter Haven Rep. Baxter Troutman, Lehigh Acres Rep. Matt Caldwell and Sebring Sen. Denise Grimsley – have taken their names out of the hat. Fort Myers Sen. Lizbeth Benacquisto said she wasn’t ruling out a run, and a host of other elected officials within CD 17 have been even less public about their plans.

Florida’s 17th Congressional District covers parts of Sarasota, Lee and Polk counties as well as the whole of Charlotte, DeSoto, Glades, Hardee, Highlands and Okeechobee.

The seat is a Republican stronghold that voted plus-27 for President Donald Trump.

The massive district covers a number of state legislative seats, but outside of Benacquisto’s nexus in Lee County, most of the GOP power players in CD 17 are concentrated in Sarasota County, though Rep. Michael Grant, who represents Charlotte County, is thought to be mulling a run, as is Rep. Ben Albritton, who represents DeSoto, Hardee and part of Polk.

At the top of the heap in Sarasota County are Sen. Greg Steube, Rep. Joe Gruters and Rep. Julio Gonzalez. Sarasota County Sheriff Tom Knight has said he will not run for the seat.

Then there are former pols such as Ray Pilon, who could jump in and muddy the vote within the Sarasota area even more, though he could just as easily lay out a return trip to the Legislature if enough of his former colleagues abandon their posts.

If any of those lawmakers make the plunge there could be a chain reaction that shakes up the Republican landscape in the Sarasota area, though Steube’s entry would register much higher on the Richter scale.

If he makes the call, his Senate seat will be a more natural step up for some contemplating the congressional jump, and a more realistic option for those lower down the totem pole.

Gruters is in no way at the bottom of that totem pole –  he chairs the Sarasota GOP and was one of President Donald Trump’s top men in Florida. Trump connections may not have played well in the HD 72 special, but both CD 17 and SD 23 have far greater Republican advantages.

The freshman lawmaker hasn’t ruled out a CD 17 run, but his likely play is to wait for Stuebe to announce for Congress and pounce into the Senate race, where he would have a massive advantage.

SD 23 covers all of Sarasota County and part of Charlotte.

GOP voters outnumber Democrats 161,000 to 114,000 and the seat voted plus-14 for Trump in 2016, putting it outside the common threshold for a “blue wave” flip.

So, who runs for Gruters’ seat if he goes for an upgrade?

Perhaps there will be a do-over for James Buchanan, the loser of the HD 72 special. He didn’t have to go through a primary in that race, but if he wants to become a lawmaker this year he’ll have to.

His opponents will likely have more political experience than him this time around. Likely to join him in the HD 73 race are Manatee County Commissioner Vanessa Baugh and Lakewood Ranch Republican Club head Steve Vernon. Vernon took Gruters to the wire in the 2016 primary for HD 73, losing by just 385 votes.

That three-way primary would be a pricy one, but it’s a guaranteed House seat for the winner. HD 73 went plus-25 for Trump in 2016 and Democrat Liv Coleman, who is currently filed to run against Gruters, has only $5,000 of loans in her campaign account.

If Gonzalez’ makes a move, it’s likely for Congress. He told the Sarasota Herald-Tribune he’s “absolutely” interested in the seat. If he makes the plunge, there’ll be another battle royale for a state House seat.

HD 74 has a strong GOP edge. Republicans have 21,000 more registered voters than Democrats in the district, making the seat’s GOP advantage half again better than the 13,000-registrant advantage in neighboring HD 72, which recently flipped with the election of Democrat Margaret Good.

Gonzalez beat Democrat Manny Lopez with 63 percent of the vote in 2016, and no candidate has filed to run against him in 2018.

If he hops into the congressional race, his legislative assistant, Vickie Brill, is likely to take a shot, as are North Port Vice-Mayor Linda Yates and up-and-comer Justin Taylor.

Firsthand experience in the legislative process has been more than enough to win a seat for many lawmakers, but Yates brings the experience of an elected official, while Taylor has enthusiasm and ties to former Sen. Nancy Detert working in his favor. An endorsement from Detert, now a Sarasota County Commissioner, could make a big difference early on in a campaign.

No matter who replaces Rooney, expect a few extra fresh faces when the 2019 Legislative Session begins.

Baxter Troutman not running for Congress to replace Tom Rooney

Baxter Troutman will not seek U.S. Rep. Tom Rooney‘s seat in the 2018 election.

The news comes after Rooney said Monday he would not run for Congress.

Almost immediately, speculation swirled as to whether another candidate would jump into the race.

The unexpected move opens up Florida’s 17th Congressional District this election year, a traditionally red district in the nation’s largest swing state.

The 17th Congressional District covers all of Charlotte, DeSoto, Glades, Hardee, Highlands, and Okeechobee counties, as well as parts of Polk, Sarasota and Lee.

The district voted 62-35 in favor of President Donald Trump in 2016 and Rooney’s successor is likely to emerge in a Republican Primary. However, many seemingly plausible candidates are otherwise committed.

As we reported Monday, Sen. Lizbeth Benacquisto is not ruling out the race.

However, others, including Lehigh Acres Rep. Matt Caldwell and Sebring Sen. Denise Grimsley, both Agriculture Commissioner hopefuls, ruled out a run.

On Tuesday, a third candidate for Agriculture Commissioner — Troutman — joined Caldwell and Grimsley in sitting out a run for Congress.

“For those inquiring, I have no interest in running for Tom Rooney’s congressional seat. I am fully committed to serving the community I grew up in as Florida’s next Commissioner of Agriculture. While I recognize the importance of having Florida’s farmers and ranchers community represented in Washington DC, I believe my background is better suited for the office of the Commissioner,” Troutman said.

Carlo Fassi, Troutman’s campaign manager, noted that “as we crisscross the state, Baxter continues to impress voters with his background and his vision for the Dept of Agriculture and Consumer Services. Last month, our campaign account received more donations than either of our opponents, leaving us with the most cash on hand since Baxter entered the race last year. Voters realize Baxter is the only farmer & rancher in the race. And this race needs a true Ag-friendly candidate.”

Troutman is the current cash-on-hand leader in the crowded GOP race for Ag Commissioner

Troutman, per a source with his campaign, has no interest in going to D.C., except “as a tourist.”

Candidates linked to the race in addition to Benacquisto: Sarasota Republican Sen. Greg Steube and Sarasota County Sheriff Tom Knight.

Developing story…

Material from Florida Politics’ Ana Ceballos and Drew Wilson was used in this post.

‘Rooney out’ — Tom Rooney not running for re-election

Saying it is time to leave his seat and serve Florida in the future in a “different capacity,” U.S. Rep. Tom Rooney announced Monday he will not run for re-election in 2018.

The unexpected move opens up Florida’s 17th Congressional District this election year, a traditionally red district in the nation’s largest swing state.

“After what will be 10 years in the United States Congress representing the good people of Florida’s Heartland, it’s time to ‘hang em up’ as my old football coach used to say,” Rooney said in a statement.

Rooney was elected to the U.S. House of Representatives in 2008 and currently serves as chairman of the House Intelligence Subcommittee on Emerging Threats.

Just days ago, he told reporters that as parties fight over the Russian investigation tangling the Trump administration that the “level of trust is just gone.” Rooney added that issues related to funding and conducting oversight for intelligence agencies are “definitely” suffering.

Last week, Rooney had issued a detailed call for lawmakers to increase funding for several programs intended to keep schools safe in the wake of the shooting in Parkland.

“As I’ve thought about the Parkland shooting, it’s become clear to me we need to do more to prevent these tragedies. That’s why I am requesting increased funding to keep our schools safe,” he said on Twitter. “This is the time. Congress must act now.”

In his statement announcing his exit from Congress, he thanked constituents, colleagues and family for “unyielding friendship and loyalty.”

“Rooney out,” he added.

With Rooney out of the picture, rumors are swirling as to who will seek to run for his seat. One of those rumored to run is term-limited Republican state Sen. Lizbeth Benacquisto, who did not shut the door to the possibility.

“My focus right now is on the tremendous amount of work ahead of us in the final weeks of Session,” Benacquisto said. “There will be plenty of time to think about this after our work in Tallahassee is completed.”

Lehigh Acres Rep. Matt Caldwell and Sebring Sen. Denise Grimsley both said shortly after Rooney’s announcement that they were out. The pair are running in the Republican primary for Agriculture Commissioner . Other possible candidates include Sarasota Republican Sen. Greg Steube and Sarasota County Sheriff Tom Knight.

CD 17 covers all of Charolotte, DeSoto, Glades, Hardee, Highlands, and Okoeechobee counties, as well as parts of Polk, Sarasota and Lee.

The district voted 62-35 in favor of President Donald Trump in 2016 and Rooney’s successor is likely to emerge in a Republican Primary.

Disaster relief package would help citrus industry

Florida’s storm-battered citrus growers are closer to landing federal relief sought since Hurricane Irma devastated large parts of the state’s agriculture industry in September.

The U.S. House on Wednesday will consider providing $2.6 billion for lost farm crops as part of an $81 billion disaster-relief package, which has been attached to the latest short-term “continuing resolution” needed to keep the federal government open.

The overall relief package, nearly double the amount requested in November by the White House to aid communities recently damaged by hurricanes and wildfires, comes after Florida Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam said last week there was no “plan B” for the state’s citrus industry without federal assistance.

“Today’s announcement of proposed emergency funding for Florida agriculture is the first bit of good news we’ve heard in months,” Putnam said in a prepared statement Tuesday.

If the package passes the U.S. House on Wednesday, it then would go to the Senate for consideration.

Putnam and Gov. Rick Scott have pushed Florida’s congressional delegation to attach assistance for the citrus industry to post-storm relief packages.

“I am glad to say we finally cleared the first major hurdle by securing this funding in the latest disaster supplemental bill,” U.S. Rep. Tom Rooney, a Republican who is the only Floridian on the House Appropriations Subcommittee on Agriculture, announced late Monday.

The Florida agriculture industry, which Putnam’s department estimated took a $2.5 billion hit from Hurricane Irma, was left out of two earlier disaster-relief packages approved by Congress.

Florida is expected to get a large part of the money for farmers, with crop losses covered for citrus growers.

The biggest parts of the relief package are $27.6 billion that would go to replenish the Federal Emergency Management Agency’s disaster-relief account and $27.8 billion for community development block grants that could be used toward flood prevention and infrastructure repairs.

Another $12.11 billion would go to the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to repair damage from the natural disasters and to bulk up facilities from future risk, including $537 million for flood control and coastal repairs.

Another $3.99 billion would help public and private schools handling displaced students.

Florida citrus growers, including many in the southwestern part of the state who were hit hard, incurred an estimated $761 million in damage from Irma. However, that estimate from early October is expected to top $1 billion as flood damage to trees continues and as harvest numbers drop.

U.S. Rep. Dennis Ross, a Lakeland Republican, said the funding will help the industry, which before Irma had been fighting citrus greening disease and is now on pace for its lowest harvest since the 1944-1945 growing season.

“We finally reached a deal that will help Florida farmers recover from the storm with $2.6 billion and prevent these jobs from going overseas,” Ross said in a prepared statement. “While we still have a long road ahead, I’m glad that Florida citrus will have a fighting chance.”

Also Wednesday, the Florida Citrus Commission will discuss shifting about $556,000 from reserves — nearly matching the amount in its reserves as of Oct. 31 — to cover programs in the current fiscal year.

Republished with permission of the News Service of Florida.

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