The Florida legislative session has passed the midway mark!

This week the House and Senate passed their individual budgets and are now in a position to begin the conferencing process. The House passed an $89.9 billion budget; the Senate, $90.3 billion.

Lobbyist Jim Spratt offered these budgetary insights:

Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services:
The Florida House proposal eliminates $4.5 million from the Fresh from Florida program, leaving barely enough money to keep the lights on. It is a far cry from the $13 million funding the program received a few years ago. The Senate proposal holds funding at $5.8 million which reflects the program funding level in each of the previous two years.

The Rural and Family Lands Program (RFLP), which is a critical tool to provide conservation easements of working agricultural and timber lands, received $0 funding in both the Senate and House proposed budgets. The RFLP does also gets a bump from funds allocated to the Florida Forever Program, yet, as currently proposed, the total money is below the $5.8 million in last year's budget and nowhere close to the $75 million the Commissioner requested.

During Gov. Scott's term as governor, several budget items were reduced, including funding from the Geomatics program within the School of Forest Resources and Conservation. Of the roughly $12 million in UF/IFAS proposals, the House provided $50,000 for the Tropical Aquaculture Lab, while the Senate provided $3.9 million for the UF/IFAS workload line and $100,000 for 4H. In addition to the anemic funding in the House's budget proposal, the lower chamber went even deeper with their cuts, removing funding for an additional three programs, including dollars for the Aquatic Invasive Center and the Invasive Species Lab.

Florida Department of Environmental Protection:
Consistent with Gov. Ron DeSantis' Executive Order relating to the environment, the Senate and House provide significant funding to projects and programs within the Everglades and Northern Everglades areas. Of the highlights from the money focused in the greater Everglades watershed, $50 million for waster water and stormwater grants including use for Septic to Sewer conversations, money for the Blue-green algae task force and the red tide working group as well as dollars for northern and southern storage projects. The Senate budget proposal contains $45 million for the Florida Forever program while the House has no funding for the program as we begin the conference process. There is also $50 million for springs funding in both the Senate and House budgets

Across the board, the budget leaves a lot of room for improvement. The above is a brief snap shot of a larger challenge legislators are having within the budget process. The bottom line is there is a lot of work to be done and the association will be reaching out to our members for assistance on specific budget items as the conference process moves forward.

. . . . . . . . . . .
Today (Friday, April 5) six legislators from around the state joined Agriculture Commissioner Nikki Fried on a tour of areas impacted by Hurricane Michael.

The tour was designed to give the legislators a first-hand look at the damage created by the storm and the work that still needs to be done. Funding is needed for debris clean-up to help lessen the danger of wildfires and invasives.

Association Executive Vice President Alan Shelby applauded the Commissioner and the Florida Forest Service for their continuing efforts in this regard.

"This tour highlighted the serious needs of this area that remain almost six months after Hurricane Michael," Shelby said, "as well as the potentially enormous consequences if those needs are not met. Legislative action is critically needed on both the state and federal levels."

Many thanks also go to Senators Bill Montford and V ictor Torres and Representatives Loranne Ausley, Rick Roth, Josie Tomkow and Elizabeth Fetterhoff for participating in the tour and for their support.
In federal news, this week a fight over money for Puerto Rico brought movement on a federal disaster aid bill to a standstill in the U.S. Senate.

All but one Democrat, Sen. Doug Jones of Alabama, opposed a procedural vote to begin debate on a $13.5 billion spending package for victims of natural disasters. Republicans then blocked a $14 billion alternative supported by Democrats that passed the House in January.

Our partners at the American Forest & Paper Association also report that President Trump has threatened to close the U.S. southern border to force Mexico to control the flow of Central American immigrants to the U.S.

For the pulp and paper industry, Mexico is a top market with exports of $4.3 billion last year. Broadly, the closing of the U.S.-Mexico border would affect more than $600 billion in two-way trade and could be very damaging to U.S. manufacturers and farmers who depend on Mexico as a key part of their supply chain and a significant export market, many of whom use paper and paperboard packaging to transport these goods.

White House economic advisors reportedly are scrambling to point out to the president the harm that closing the border would cause to the U.S. economy.
This week Florida Attorney General Ashley Moody released an opinion that a county cannot require businesses to use the E-Verify system to screen potential illegal workers before the businesses can get proof that they have paid taxes.

Nominations for the "Silvicultural Contractor of the Year Award” are being accepted through May 14, 2019. The award honors the dedication, hard work and challenges of those individuals whom we depend on for professional silvicultural services.

We have been asked to share that there is still time to register for the American Tree Farm System Fly-In April 29-May 1 in Washington, D.C. A limited number of scholarships for the event are also still available.

The University of Georgia's Warnell School of Forestry and Natural Resources’ Continuing Education Program will be sponsoring the course titled "Logging Cost Analysis" at the Harbison State Forest Environmental Center in Columbia, South Carolina, on June 12-13, 2019.

The course will be taught by Warnell Assistant Professor Joe Conrad and Associate Professor Chad Bolding of Virginia Tech. It will will cover both principles and applications of logging cost analysis techniques from the perspective of wood dealers, procurement foresters, and independent logging contractors.

The Florida Forestry Teachers’ Tour is an annual event that gives the Florida Forest Service and the forest industry the opportunity to share forestry’s story with educators from around the state. Teachers take back the information and insights they learn in this four-day hands-on experience and incorporate them into their curriculum during the school year. This year’s tour will be held June 18-21, based in Fernandina Beach, FL.

Sponsors are vital to the success of this program! Each $500 sponsorship allows one teacher to participate at no cost to him/herself beyond travel to and from Fernandina Beach. To become a sponsor, contact Christina Sabo ( or 850.222.5646) or simply send your check, payable to the Florida Forestry Foundation, to P.O. Box 1696, Tallahassee, FL 32302. 

 Partnering with Outdoor Underwriters, Inc., the Association offers our members special reduced rates for liability insurance for hunting leases and timberland.
Click here for details  or contact Mike Branch (850.222.5646 or ).
April 30, 2019
10 AM (EDT)
Executive Committee Meeting
Association Office
Tallahassee, FL

June 5-6, 2019
8 AM (EDT)
Master Logger 2-Day Training
Lake City, FL

July 18, 2019
8 AM (CDT)
Master Logger CLE Training
DeFuniak Springs, FL

August 20-22, 2019
Annual Meeting
Sandestin Golf and Beach Resort
Miramar Beach, FL

Unsubscribe: Please note that if you unsubscribe to Forestry 411 via the link below, you will be unsubscribed from all of the Association's emails. If you wish to be removed from the Forestry 411 mailing list only, please email your request to Lee Ann Fisch by clicking here .