Senate Agriculture Committee / House Agriculture & Natural Resources Subcommittee – This week, these committees heard state land management presentations by representatives of the Florida Forestry Service, the Department of Environmental Protection and the Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission. The speakers discussed agency responsibilities, areas of jurisdiction, and personnel and budget considerations. Florida State Forester Jim Karels, talked about wildfire suppression on more than 26 million acres, and the prescribed burns that reduce fire fuels, enhance species habitat and control disease and pests.
The DEP spoke about its state lands and state parks programs. The Board of Trustees oversees approximately 12 million acres, including conservation lands, non-conservation lands (such as hospitals, office buildings and stadiums) and sovereign submerged lands. Management also covers leases, subleases, easements and deed restrictions, and includes GIS mapping and title recordkeeping. The parks programs indicated that the majority of its $80 million operating budget (70%) comes from fees generated with the remainder from documentary stamps. The Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission manages about 5.8 million acres of wildlife management areas (WMAs) and derives revenue from timber, hunting fees, citrus, grazing contracts and concessions.
House State Affairs and Agriculture and Natural Resources Committees (Joint Meeting) - This week, the committees again met together and heard presentations regarding water supply and water quality policies related to Florida's springs. The presentations were similar to those given in the Senate Environmental Preservation and Conservation Committee in September. Representatives from DEP talked about consumptive uses, MFLs and Recovery and Prevention Strategies, and each of the five water management districts spoke to the issues and challenges unique to their regions, focusing on projects designed to improve specific springs therein. The Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services also spoke regarding water supply and quality issues relating to the agriculture industry, including the BMP program, weather and nutrient monitoring and conservation efforts. The department noted the need for alternative water supply development. Finally, speakers from the University of Florida IFAS Program spoke about nutrient research projects on agricultural lands including row crops, dairy, poultry and grass. Recommendations included more robust BMPs, targeted aquifer recharge areas, fertilizer free landscapes, and compensation for taking sensitive lands out of production.
House Agriculture & Natural Resources Appropriations Subcommittee / Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on General Government – This week these committee heard presentations from the Department of Citrus on Marketing efforts and from Florida Citrus Mutual and the Citrus Research & Development Foundation on the citrus greening (HLB) problem and research efforts to address the problem. Citrus greening now affects 100 percent of orange crops, located in 34 counties in Florida. The Foundation focuses on Asian psyllid suppression, targeting the bacterial pathogen, and plant research to find a tolerant root stock. They also conduct research into thermal therapy, anti-reflective mulch, and antimicrobials.
Senate Environmental Preservation and Conservation Committee – This week the committee heard a presentation from the Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services regarding water supply and water quality issues. Representatives pointed out that population growth is expected to increase from 7 to 9 billion by 2050 and that food production will have to increase by 70%, while water available for agriculture will actually decrease. This puts a lot of pressure on the industry to conserve and make more efficient use of available resources.
The committee also heard a presentation from the DEP on the status of regional water supply planning, focusing on alternative water supply. Representatives noted that Florida is a national leader in reclaimed water with 486 facilities and 725 MGD reused in 2012. They also discussed brackish water, Aquifer Storage and Recovery (ASR) and surface water reservoirs – explaining the advantages and disadvantages of on-line and off-line facilities.