The future of Florida’s agriculture industry rests in the hands of legislative leaders devising the next Farm Bill. U.S. Rep. Kat Cammack (FL-03) continues her quest in ensuring Florida producers are not slighted as the next bill continues to be debated in Washington D.C.
She spoke with Florida Politics as the current Farm Bill debate lingers and what should be included. Cammack tried to steer clear of being over dramatic but stressed Florida is one of the states with the most at stake, as the current Farm Bill is set to expire on Sept. 30, 2023.
“Florida has the most to lose as a delegation,” said Cammack, who serves on the House Agriculture Committee.
Cammack is not far off in pondering Florida’s future. Her state produces more than 300 specialty crops, many of which are at a competitive disadvantage with Mexican imports.
“It’s really concerning when you have folks that are growing healthy food right in your backyard, and yet we’re trucking it up from Central and South America through Mexico, adding food miles,” Cammack said. “And to my environmental friends, I ask them, have you calculated those food miles?”
Illegal dumping of crops and a disproportionate difference in wages between U.S. and Mexican employers have Florida growers struggling to keep pace in the specialty crop sector.
“Things like the seasonal perishable provisions that were excluded out of NAFTA (North American Free Trade Agreement) and then from the USMCA (United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement), those have tremendously harmed our producers,” Cammack said. “When you think about our tomato growers, for example, they’re operating under a tomato suspension agreement that hasn’t been enforced, so it’s being more harmful than helpful.”
Florida’s farmers also deal with natural disasters every year, including Hurricane Ian last season. Ag losses were estimated at just more than $1 billion due to Ian.