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Agriculture Issues for 2019

Published: March 12th, 2019
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The 2019 Florida Legislative Session officially began on March 5. Bills relating to agriculture continue to be filed and are summarized below. Updates from the previous report are in bold print.

The full text of each bill and any amendments can be found on the legislative web sites. (http://www.flsenate.gov; http://www.myfloridahouse.com; and http://www.leg.state.fl.us.)

Water and Natural Resources

C-51 Reservoir Project: SB 92 by Senator Book revises the portions of the C-51 reservoir project for which the South Florida Water Management District may negotiate and revises the water storage and use requirements for the project if state funds are appropriated. The bill also specifies that Phase II of the project may be funded by appropriation in addition to other sources. It has passed its two of three committees. The House companion, HB 95 by Representative Jacobs has also passed two of three committees.

Water Quality Improvements: HB 141 by Representative Fine provides an appropriation for projects related to the Indian River Lagoon Comprehensive Conservation and Management Plan and authorizes DEP to provide grants for such projects. The bill also requires each wastewater facility that unlawfully discharges sewage into a waterway or aquifer to notify its customers. It has been referred to three committees. The Senate companion, SB 216 by Senator Gruters has received three committee references.

Fertilizers: HB 157 by Representative Thompson requires local governments to adopt and enforce the most recent version of the Model Ordinance for Florida-Friendly Fertilizer Use on Urban Landscapes in order to control water pollution and enhance overall water quality. The bill has three committee references. There are companion provisions in SB 216 and SB 368.

Domestic Wastewater Collection System Assessment and Maintenance: SB 286 by Senator Albritton establishes the Blue Star Collection System Assessment and Maintenance Program within the Department of Environmental Protection as a voluntary incentive for the purpose of assisting public and private utilities in limiting sanitary sewer overflows and the unauthorized discharge of pathogens. It has three committee references. The House companion, HB 105 by Representative Jacobs, has also passed its first of three committees.

St. Johns Upper Basin Wastewater Pollutant Control Program: HB 405 by Representative Grall creates the St. Johns Upper Basin Wastewater Pollutant Control Program, which would consist of an action plan designed to be a multifaceted approach to reducing pollutant loads by improving the management of pollutant sources. The bill also requires all entities disposing of septage within the watershed to submit an agricultural use plan to the Department of Health. The bill has been referred to three committees. It does not currently have a Senate companion.

Wetland Mitigation: HB 521 by Representative McClure removes provisions prohibiting a governmental entity from creating or providing mitigation for a project other than its own unless certain conditions are met. The bill has been referred to three committees. The Senate companion, SB 532, also has three committee references.

Dredge and Fill Permitting Program: HB 799 by Representative Overdorf urges Congress to direct U.S. EPA to issue memorandum of agreement so Florida may complete assumption of section 404 dredge and fill permitting program under federal Clean Water Act. It has been referred to two committees. There is currently no Senate companion.

Agricultural Operations

Verification of Employment Eligibility: HB 89 by Representative Altman requires employers to use E-Verify for new employees and creates a system within DEO to accept and investigate complaints against non-compliant employers. The bill has been referred to three committees. The Senate companion, SB 164 by Senator Bean, has been referred to four committees.

Medical Marijuana Retail Facilities: SB 154 by Senator Thurston creates separate licensure for medical marijuana retail facilities to dispense medical marijuana acquired from medical marijuana treatment centers. The bill is a departure from the current system where single entities are licensed to handle the entire process from seed to sale. It has been referred to four committees. The House companion, HB 461 by Representative Thompson has been referred to three committees.

Smoking Marijuana for Medical Use: SB 182 by Senator Brandes eliminates the prohibition against the smoking of marijuana for medical use. The bill requires a physician to determine that smoking is the only beneficial means of administering medical marijuana to the patient, unless he or she is diagnosed with a terminal condition. The bill has passed all committees. The House companion, HB 7015 by the Health and Human Services Committee has also passed its only committee.

State Hemp Program: HB 333 by Representative Massullo creates the State Hemp Program within the Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services to promote the cultivation, handling, processing, and sale of hemp, hemp products, and hemp extract in Florida. The bill defines hemp as an agricultural commodity and specifies that certain hemp-derived cannabinoids intended for ingestion are foods and not controlled substances. The bill has been referred to three committees. The Senate companion, SB 1058 by Senator Albritton, has been referred to three committees. Another related Senate Bill, HB 1020 by Senator Bradley, also has three committee references.

Smoking Marijuana for Medical Use: SB 372 by Senator Farmer redefines terms to authorize the production, processing, transportation, sale, possession, and administration of marijuana in a smokable form for medical use. The bill has been referred to three committees. It does not currently have a House companion.

Property Rights, Budget, and Taxes

Governor DeSantis released his $91.3 billion recommended budget, which would be the largest in state history if signed into law. The Governor’s recommendations include $150 million for water quality improvement and an additional $25 million to combat blue-green algae and red tide. These recommendations are part of a larger plan to spend $2.5 billion on water resource and everglades protection measures over the next 4 years. The Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services proposed budget includes requests of $75 million for the Rural and Family Lands Protection Program and $25 million for agricultural nutrient reduction and water retention projects.

Vegetable Gardens: SB 82 by Senator Bradley prohibits local governments from regulating vegetable gardens on residential properties. However, the bill would still allow local governments to adopt regulations of a general nature that do not specifically regulate vegetable gardens such as those relating to water use during drought conditions, fertilizer use, or control of invasive species. It has passed its first of two committees. The House companion, HB 145 by Representative Fetterhoff has passed its first of three committees.

Advanced Well Stimulation Treatment: SB 239 by Representative Fitzenhagen prohibits advanced well stimulation treatments and specifies that permits for drilling or operating wells do not authorize such treatments. It has been referred to three committees. The Senate companion, SB 314 by Senator Montford, has passed its first of three committees.

Rural Businesses: SB 298 by Senator Montford creates the “Florida Rural Job and Business Recovery Act” requiring DEO to accept applications to certify applicants as growth funds. The bill has passed its first of three committees. The House companion, HB 739 by Representative Hill, has been referred to three committees.

Land Acquisition Trust Fund: SB 368 by Senator Harrell provides an annual appropriation of the lesser of 7.6% of the fund or $50 million for projects dedicated to the conservation and management of the Indian River Lagoon. It is linked to substantive water quality bills HB 141 and SB 216, which are described above. SB 368 has been referred to three committees.

Land Acquisition Trust Fund: SB 376 by Senator Montford appropriates $50 million each year through the 2025-2026 fiscal year for projects dedicated to conservation and management projects in counties impacted by Hurricane Michael. The bill has been referred to three committees. The House companion, HB 555 by Representative Drake, has been referred to three committees.

Other Legislation of Interest

Federal Immigration Enforcement: SB 168 by Senator Gruters prohibits sanctuary policies and requires state and local governments and law enforcement agencies to comply with and support the enforcement of federal immigration laws. The bill has three committees of reference. It has passed its first of three committees. An identical bill, SB 170, has been filed by Senator Bean. The House companion is HB 527 by Representative Byrd. It has been referred to three committees.

Off-Highway Vehicles: SB 310 by Senator Perry redefines the terms “ATV;” “ROV;” and “all-terrain vehicle” to increase the authorized width and dry weight of such vehicles. It has been passed its first of three committees. The House companion, HB 659 by Representative Hage, has been referred to three committees.

Public Records Exemption for Trade Secrets: HB 759 and HB 761 are related bills by Representative Massullo that repeal all of the various trade secret exemptions that apply to specific agencies and replace them with one uniform exemption. The bills provide that agency contracts and agreements and related information cannot be trade secrets. The bills also detail a process for the owner of trade secret information to claim an exemption from disclosure as a public record and remove liability provisions for agency employees who release such records in good faith. The bills have the effect of significantly limiting protections for trade secrets related to agency contracts from disclosure as public records. They have been referred to three committees.

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