Describing it as a national security issue, Agriculture Commissioner Wilton Simpson is rolling out the state’s proposed new method for reducing the tax burden on its farmers.
“When we think about our food or food products, we need to think about our farmers,” Simpson said. “Any time we regulate a farmer, any time we put restrictions on the farmer, any time we’re doing anything that’s hampering the farmer — adding weight to their back — we need to think of it like that. This is a national security issue.”
The state should be working to lessen that burden, he later added.
A card to be used at retailers, the Farm TEAM (Tax Exempt Agricultural Materials) Card would take the place of having to fill out and submit a form for purchased tax-exempt agricultural materials.
“Our farmers today are clearly working very hard,” Simpson said. “They don’t have time to deal with all this red tape that we have to deal with.”
Farmers in the state would receive the card free from the Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services, which would have a five-year expiration date on it. Legislation to bring the idea into reality (HB 1279, SB 1164) is working its way through the committee process.
“As a country, we simply cannot afford to become more dependent on other nations for our food supply,” said Hillsborough Republican Sen. Jay Collins, sponsor of the Senate bill and Chairman of the Senate Agriculture Committee.
“Yet, as many of us know, our agricultural community has been dealing with a cavalcade of issues over the last several years, from freezing to greening to a couple of storms you might have heard about, and the hurricanes. It’s been increasingly difficult for our farmers to make a living. We’re losing farmers and agriculture year over year.”
The legislation is part of what Collins said is a three-step strategic approach to solve the issue. The goal is to stabilize, revitalize and grow the state’s agricultural community. Putting money back in the hands of farmers is part of the first step.
“Today we revitalize our commitment to the Florida farmer,” Hillsborough Republican Rep. Danny Alvarez said. “And we say we put the Florida farmer first. Our card may look small, but its impact is going to be very, very big on our state.”