Senate panel advances bill aiming to offer more housing to seasonal farm workers

'Without enough workers, this critical pillar of Florida's economy will come to a screeching halt.'

Lawmakers are looking for a solution to Florida’s housing shortage for seasonal farm workers, and new legislation aims to help address the issue.

The Senate Community Affairs Committee voted to advance the bill (SB 1082) via a unanimous 8-0 vote. The measure bars local officials from prohibiting “the construction or installation of housing for agricultural workers on land classified as agricultural land,” save some limited exceptions laid out in the legislation.

Sen. Jay Collins is carrying the bill, with Rep. Kaylee Tuck fronting the House companion (HB 1051). The measure also lays out varying zoning and building regulations for the housing.

Florida is experiencing a general housing crunch, with residents flooding into the state. That hot market also is impacting seasonal farm workers, who have increasingly been left without affordable options to help keep Florida’s farm industry functioning.

After Senate lawmakers advanced the legislation Tuesday, the Florida Nursery, Growers and Landscape Association (FNGLA) came out with a statement backing the bill.

“What we grow here in Florida is enjoyed in homes, businesses and green spaces all over the world. But without enough workers, this critical pillar of Florida’s economy will come to a screeching halt,” said Tal Coley, chief executive officer of FNGLA.

“We are grateful to Senator Collins, Representative Tuck and Commissioner of Agriculture Wilton Simpson for pursuing solutions that will help us expand housing options and ensure we have the workforce we need to continue growing plants and trees.”

Collins’ bill still has two more stops before reaching the Senate floor. The measure will next head to the Senate Agriculture Committee, followed by the Rules Committee.

Tuck’s bill has also been referred to three committees: the House Agriculture, Conservation & Resiliency Subcommittee, the Local Administration, Federal Affairs & Special Districts Subcommittee, and the Infrastructure Strategies Committee. So far, the bill hasn’t been heard by any of those committees.

Ryan Nicol

Ryan Nicol covers news out of South Florida for Florida Politics. Ryan is a native Floridian who attended undergrad at Nova Southeastern University before moving on to law school at Florida State. After graduating with a law degree he moved into the news industry, working in TV News as a writer and producer, along with some freelance writing work. If you'd like to contact him, send an email to [email protected].


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