WASHINGTON –U.S. Reps. Vern Buchanan and Debbie Wasserman Schultz today co-chaired a bipartisan meeting of Florida’s congressional delegation discussing with key stakeholders some of the most pressing agriculture issues affecting the Sunshine State with a special focus on the upcoming 2023 Farm Bill.

“Today’s hearing was a productive conversation about Florida’s agriculture future. This is a critical industry to Florida that supports an estimated 2.1 million jobs. As Congress considers the Farm Bill in the coming weeks, I’m confident our state’s delegation will secure necessary wins for Florida’s farmers and ranchers.”

Wasserman Schultz said, “Our delegation made clear today that Florida growers not only bring jobs, cultural and economic diversity to our state, they also put food and orange juice on America’s tables. I was grateful that Congressman Buchanan and I and our Florida colleagues could discuss various issues that our No. 2 industry faces, such as the emergence of AI and climate change.”

In addition to Buchanan and Wasserman Schultz, members in attendance at today’s hearing included Reps. Kat Cammack, Neal Dunn, Brian Mast, Darren Soto, Aaron Bean, John Rutherford, Scott Franklin, Carlos Gimenez, Gus Bilirakis, Maxwell Frost, Michael Waltz and Sheila Cherfilus-McCormick.

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In his opening remarks, Buchanan noted that between hurricanes, citrus greening and Mexico’s illegal dumping of specialty crops, it has been a “trying year for Florida’s farmers and ranchers.” In particular, he noted that Florida’s citrus production is nearing a historic 90-year low – the worst since the Great Depression.

The panelists included:

  • R.J. Layher - Director of Government Affairs, American Farm Bureau Federation
  • Dr. Scott Angle - Senior Vice President, the University of Florida’s Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences
  • Mike Risola – Director of Federal Affairs, Florida Department of Agriculture
  • Susan King - Board Chair of Feeding Florida and CEO of Feeding Northeast Florida

image of hearing

Layher said, “The continuation of the Specialty Crop Block Grant Program is an important factor into the viability of Florida’s agriculture economy as well as disaster relief from hurricanes and frost.”

Dr. Angle highlighted the need to explore artificial intelligence (AI) to meet some of Florida’s agriculture needs. He said, “USDA investment in AI in agriculture in the Southeast will support higher-paying jobs in agriculture, provide the fruits and vegetables necessary for a healthier diet, and lower health care costs. And it will protect our national security by ensuring a home-grown food supply.”

After questioning from Rep. Michael Waltz about China purchasing large swaths of U.S. farmland and federal tax dollars being spent on foreign-produced commodities, Risola said, “Commissioner Simpson has recently passed a requirement ensuring fresh food from Florida farmers are in state programs.”

King said, “Ensuring access to healthy nutritious food is an issue we can all support. The cost of not supporting it is something we cannot afford. It’s why I am passionate about this work and I believe we can come to solutions together to help fight hunger. The Farm Bill is a truly bipartisan exercise that can maintain and improve our nutrition programs.”

Rep. Kat Cammack, who is one of the two Florida delegation members to sit on the House Agriculture Committee with Rep. Darren Soto, thanked co-Chairs Buchanan and Wasserman Schultz for their leadership in holding today’s hearing and noted that Florida has the “most to lose” in the Farm Bill and said a draft text should be expected in September.