Budget conference: House, Senate remain $200M apart on Rural and Family Lands
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The Senate wants $300M, just like last year. The House wants $100M.

The House wants to invest $100 million in a Rural and Family Lands program.

The money was in a first offer in the Agriculture and Natural Resources silo. While the nine-figure amount will buy a lot of land protection easements, it’s just a third of the $300 million the Senate has in its budget.

The program has been a priority for Agriculture Commissioner Wilton Simpson, who secured $300 million for the program while the Trilby egg farmer served as Senate President. And a record number of landowners applied for the program last year, so it’s unlikely interest will wane any time soon.

Notably, the Senate wants to fund the balance for the program using nonrecurring general revenue.

But the House offer looks to raid trust funds to cover the bills.

The chambers do agree on some smaller ticket items, including $2 million for U.S. Energy Department land acquisition projects.

But the Senate wants $6.5 million to acquire Southern Gardens and $500,000 for the Hickory Sink easements, while the House has none of that included in its budget offer.

In terms of big-ticket items already closed out, both chambers want to put almost $33.2 million for an emergency food distribution program. More than $7.8 million has also been agreed upon for a citrus health response program.

There’s also $4 million in both budgets for citrus crop decline supplemental funding.

But the Senate wants $6 million for a fertilizer rate study and the House so far has no money in the budget.

A major point of contention will be some $177 million in facilities improvements the Senate has budgeted for the Agriculture Department. In contrast, the House has not one nickel for office space.

The budget now clicks back over to the Senate to consider and make a counteroffer as the final days of the Legislative Session wind down.

Jacob Ogles

Jacob Ogles has covered politics in Florida since 2000 for regional outlets including SRQ Magazine in Sarasota, The News-Press in Fort Myers and The Daily Commercial in Leesburg. His work has appeared nationally in The Advocate, Wired and other publications. Events like SRQ’s Where The Votes Are workshops made Ogles one of Southwest Florida’s most respected political analysts, and outlets like WWSB ABC 7 and WSRQ Sarasota have featured his insights. He can be reached at [email protected].


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