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The Future of Florida Produce Industry

By Michael Collins, June 18, 2019

Tags: Produce

Let’s talk a little about the state of Florida’s agriculture, and what’s in store for the Sunshine State in the future. Obviously, a few things come to mind when you think of Florida produce. Your mind more likely than not jumps straight to citrus, as it does account for a major portion of Florida’s produce industry. However, Florida is facing some issues that are more regulatory in nature.

Trade has been the primary focus for the Florida Fruit and Vegetable Association for quite some time. In 2018, The US-Mexico-Canada Agreement trade pact signed by President Donald Trump is devoid of trade reform details to allow Florida’s produce growers to make their cases against Mexico which routinely distribute cheap produce within the U.S. markets during peak growing season. The potential light at the end of the tunnel is that a chunk of Florida’s elected officials, who are abundantly aware of the situation which has plagued the Florida produce industry, have introduced the Defending Domestic Produce Production Act. This is great news for the FFVA which is in full support of the act.

This piece of legislation has gained significant traction as several additional lawmakers have backed the bill as co-sponsors. The bill will serve as a major source of trade relief for specialty crop producers in Florida and the Southeast region. The FFVA is gearing up for its next annual convention in which they will introduce their Director of Science and Regulatory Affairs, Mike Aerts, as a new chair member of the Minor Crop Farmer Alliance, replacing the previous title holder as result of his retirement. The organization hopes his appointment will see the betterment of Florida’s produce industry, and the resurgence of growth and production overall.

The FFVA is also staring down the barrel of another hot issue which has plighted the industry recently. Newly imposed tracking rules have hindered perishable produce products from being delivered expeditiously. Members from both the FFVA and the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration met in Washington D.C. to discuss the matter in finer details. They reviewed FFVA’s request for a modification to the Hours of Service and Electronic Logging Device rules which in its current state, greatly decreases the rate by which deliveries are completed. They hoped to change the rules specific to the safe transportation of perishable fruits and vegetables.

A representative from the FFVA details the suggested changes and what they predict will happen without their contributions.

“Delays in delivery result in significant impacts on food quality and the safety of perishable fruits and vegetables; delivery delays also contribute to unnecessary food waste,” the memo stated. “The industry wishes to work with FMCSA/DOT [Department of Transportation] in the development of a process that allows delivery of perishable fruits and vegetables to consumers in a safe and timely manner. We emphasize the urgency of this national issue as you consider these changes.”

The FFVA continues to gain support on a petition in circulation that outlines the modification proposals. The FFVA feels confident in their support from those from within and without the industry both nationally and on a state level.

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