Gov. DeSantis strikes sturgeon farm funding from budget

Beluga Sturgeon
A $1.8 million appropriation for Sturgeon Aquafarms didn't make the cut.

A $1.8 million appropriation for Sturgeon Aquafarms is now fish food, alongside another $1 billion worth of  items excised from the budget by Gov. Ron DeSantis.

The funding would have helped the Jackson County-based sturgeon farm get back on its feet after Hurricane Michael wreaked havoc on operations nearly two years ago.

Based in Bascom, Sturgeon Aquafarms is the only operation licensed and authorized by the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service to grow, harvest, and export beluga sturgeon.

For the uninitiated, beluga sturgeon are native to the Caspian and Black seas and are the source of beluga caviar — the most prized variety of fish roe.

The seven-figure ask was filed by Sen. George Gainer and was one of the hundreds of member projects to get the ax Monday.

According to government watchdog Florida TaxWatch, the final veto list included 518 member projects that combined to $264 million in funding.

The Sturgeon Aquafarms money accounted for nearly a third of the $6 million in aquaculture money set aside by the Legislature, however it was the only such project in the budget category DeSantis singled out for a veto.

Earlier this month, DeSantis warned he would put the budget through the “veto equivalent of the Red Wedding.”

The $1 billion-plus slashing, larger than anticipated, is the biggest budget veto made by a Governor in the state’s history.

As the economic realities of the pandemic began to set in over the final days of the 2020 Legislative Session, lawmakers reworked the budget to a plan worth $93.2 billion. But with tourism disappearing and back-to-back monthly revenue reports showing massive shortfalls to the tune of $1.66 billion, the apparent surplus vanished into a $1.46 billion deficit.

“We always knew that we could see an economic downturn, but I don’t think we necessarily forecast the economy simply stopping for a time,” DeSantis told reporters Monday.

Drew Wilson

Drew Wilson covers legislative campaigns and fundraising for Florida Politics. He is a former editor at The Independent Florida Alligator and business correspondent at The Hollywood Reporter. Wilson, a University of Florida alumnus, covered the state economy and Legislature for LobbyTools and The Florida Current prior to joining Florida Politics.


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