U.S. Sen. Rick Scott recently stopped by Clewiston to discuss issues farmers face as Congress tries to finalize a new farm bill.
While Scott heard farmers’ concerns, he also told agriculture community members they need to voice their priorities to as many members of Congress as possible.
“You need to use every communications tool at your disposal to let them know that Florida agriculture helps feed our nation,” Scott said.
Scott sat with U.S. Rep. Scott Franklin, Agriculture Commissioner Wilton Simpson, Florida Farm Bureau President Jeb Smith, and Florida Fruit and Vegetable Association Chairman Mike Joyner. The panel met with local vegetable, sugar cane, sod and rice farmers, as well as cattle ranchers.
“We have some of the best soil, the best sunshine, and the best rainfall in the world,” Simpson said during the Friday meeting. “We are here to celebrate that.”
Florida’s congressional delegation members have been highlighting the state’s interests as the farm bill takes shape. The twice-a-decade bill is a significant piece of legislation that features major policy debates over subsidies, crop insurance, food programs for those in need and more.
“Not to sound too dramatic, but I feel like Florida really is either the top or one of the top three states that has the most at stake in this farm bill,” U.S. Rep. Kat Cammack said last month.
Cue Scott and Franklin joining with Simpson, who leads the state’s Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services and works in agriculture himself. The meeting shows the measure is a top priority of the delegation, given its impact on domestic food production. “Agriculture is bipartisan,” Franklin said.
Simpson has said supporting the industry should be treated as a national security issue.
“Imagine today there being no food in the grocery store just for one week. And then you’d have chaos, right? Imagine two weeks, you’d have complete chaos,” Simpson said. “So not considering food a national security issue would be fooling ourselves.”
More than 400 representatives from the state’s agricultural community were reportedly on hand during the Friday meeting, organized by the Florida Agribusiness Council.
“To have all of these true leaders come down here, it says a lot about what our leaders in Tallahassee (and) Washington think about what us farmers do in South Florida,” said Western Palm Beach County Farm Bureau President Keith Wedgworth.
Scott’s visit also came as he helped respond to Hurricane Idalia’s strike, which impacted agricultural interests in the Big Bend region.
“Florida’s agriculture industry is known around the world, and the success of our state wouldn’t be possible without our growers and ranchers,” Scott said.
“Unfortunately, things are tough for hardworking families in our state right now as prices keep rising and natural disasters cause mass losses of crops and livestock. I know Florida’s agricultural communities have been laser-focused on hurricane recovery following Hurricanes Ian and Idalia — and I’m fighting to make sure they get all the disaster relief they deserve.”