ISSUE: Much of the agriculture industry is labor intensive and dependent on immigrant labor. There is a current shortage of agriculture labor; growers are seeking help from government to streamline and improve available visa programs, modify the E-Verify program to work in concert with agriculture labor visas, and develop bi-partisan immigration policies that stabilize the current workforce, providing work authorization and incentives to continue performing work in agriculture.
REQUEST TO CONGRESS: Congress needs to ensure a reliable, lawful agricultural workforce, support an improved future agricultural visa program to bring workers in as needed, and to keep in place the skilled workforce that is already here. In addition to streamlining and improving available visa options, the industry advocates for the USDA to handle visas for agricultural workers rather than the DOL based on the premise that USDA would understand the seasonal variations and time-sensitive nature of the variety of needs.
BACKGROUND: The current Agricultural Visa Program (H-2A) is bureaucratic and complicated. The processes involved often lead to harmful delays. The current program is not available or does not work well for many farmers and farm sectors. Also, enforcement only programs like mandatory E-Verify without programs that provide a legal and reliable workforce would have a devastating impact on rural economies across America.
• In response to labor uncertainties, an increasing number of growers have turned to the H-2A program. The need is so great that the number of H-2A workers has doubled in the past five years, despite the fact H-2A is complicated, expensive and increasingly unreliable.
• The three primary agencies involved – Department of Labor (DOL), US
Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS), and Department of State (DOS) are often unable to meet the demand for workers in a timely manner due to capacity problems.
• The National Council of Agricultural Employers found an average delay of more than 30 days in 2017 which results in loss of a perishable crop at harvest time.
• Mandatory E-Verify without reforming our broader immigration system would result in loss of workforce and agricultural output – our domestic food supply.
It is my goal to insure a Safe, Abundant and Affordable Food Supply for Florida, the United States and the world. I will work to fine tune the monitoring of Food Safety Standards from farm to fork. Those efforts include agricultural pesticide registration, testing and regulation; pest control regulation; feed, seed and fertilizer production inspection and testing. I would like to explore ways to modernize the permitting and inspection process of food establishments, inspection of food products, and performance of specialized laboratory analysis on a variety of food products sold or produced in the state.
As the administrator of the Florida School Lunch Program I will sign off on agreements that make common sense and provide guidance, training, outreach and technical service to ensure all Florida schools are in compliance with all regulatory guidelines. These actions will assure parents that their children are receiving the safest and most nutritious foods available.
The FDA Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA), the most sweeping reform of our food safety laws in more than 70 years, was signed into law January 4, 2011. It aims to ensure the U.S. food supply is safe by shifting the focus from responding to contamination to preventing it. FSMA has given the Food and Drug Administration new authorities to regulate the way foods are grown,
harvested and processed. As FDA continues to fine tune the regulatory process they will be working in concert with Florida’s Department of Agriculture with inspections and compliance. It is my goal to work closely with FDA to ensure a smooth transition of the new processes with Florida’s food producers, importers and exporters. International Trade: Florida food, plant and apiary inspection program are responsible for protecting Florida’s agricultural industry and the public from the introduction and spread of serious plant and
apiary pests. They also inspect and certify Florida plants and plant products for export hat they are free from pests. I will support efforts to renegotiate NAFTA in order to affect a fair-trade agreement and bring trade to the 21 st century.
Pest Plant Disease Management Products
The Agriculture department is responsible for protecting Florida’s native and commercially-grown plants from harmful pests and diseases. These invasive pests and diseases threaten our agriculture, food supply and natural environment. My agricultural education and hands on experience as a tree grower offers me the experience to oversee one of the most important roles of this office, review, approve or deny applications for conditional use permits for pest and soil management products and insure that growers are using products safely and in compliance with the law.
Pest Detection Program
Florida is one of several states working with highly trained detector dogs, a USDA K-9 Initiative, that can find a specific invasive pests or disease in the field. These dogs help speed the efforts of USDA’s Plant Protection and Quarantine (PPQ) program to determine the pest infestation boundaries and identify pest-free areas. They work at ports, sniffing entire shipments of commodities to detect traces of insect larvae or plant disease. I will work in partnership with USDA to continue funding this program and expanding, as needed. ACP (Asian Citrus Psyllid) Huanglongbing, (HLB, Citrus Greening)– the most destructive invasive pest to hit the citrus industry worldwide. It is now known to be caused by unculturable phloem-limited bacteria dropped by the pest. It destroys the veins of the leaf as it works its way down to the roots.
Once infected, ACP destroys the trees permanently and its contagious bacteria spreads from tree to tree and into the soil. I will work with the appropriate agencies, academia and research institutions to assist Florida’s citrus industry with detection, management and ultimately the eradication of this
destructive invasive pest.
Forestry, Water Ways the Environment
The Florida Forest Service protects Florida and its people through Wildfire Prevention, Detection and Suppression, State Land Management, and Forestry Technical Assistance. Florida’s farmers and non-farm residents are dependent on a clean and safe water supply. It is my promise to work with agricultural producers, industry groups, the Florida Department of Environmental Protection, the university system and the Florida water management districts to continue develop and implement Agricultural Best Management Practices (BMPs) addressing both water quality and water conservation. I am committed to exploring new
methods and technology to enhance Best Management Practice in the fields. I will invite more practical, cost-effective actions for agricultural producers to employ for water conservation and reduction of pesticides, fertilizers, animal waste and other pollutants entering our water resources.
Animal Health and Welfare
The Department of Agriculture Veterinarians and Animal Health inspectors work throughout the state with producers and animal owners to monitor and enhance the health and welfare of Florida’s animals. From pet population to the exotic animals that grace our state, I believe these animals deserve the very best care and protection modern science and technology can offer. I will lend my experience in military logistics to modernize the Department’s coordination of the state’s response to emergencies from hurricanes to animal disease outbreaks. I will also engage other agencies, research institutions and the private sector to develop high tech, smart monitoring of Florida’s animal health and welfare. These efforts will include better management of our Federal and State Forests.
This is the go-to Department for information, licensing and locations of recreation activities and events around the state. These include the wounded veterans Operation Outdoor Freedom program, Fairs and Livestock Shows, Fishing, Camping, State Forests, Seafood Festivals and Forest Service volunteer opportunities. As a strong supporter of the 2nd Amendment, I believe the right of each citizen to keep and bear arms is fundamental and shall not be infringed upon. As the issuing agency for gun licensing and permits, I will exhaust all avenues to implement the best background screening technology for Florida while securing our law-abiding residents the right to bear arms when they apply for their permits.
Scams, Fraud Abuse
The Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services is the place to go to file complaints on everything from phone scams, identity theft, license fraud to contractor and tax scams and many more. There are many consumer resources to help keep Floridians safe and protect your rights. However, it is my intention to review our existing protocols and establish updated, strong, coordinated strategies between local municipalities, counties and state law enforcement to protect our citizenry from these abuses.
The Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services plays a major role in providing Florida consumer protection, as well as, on-farm best management practices. A nation is only as strong as its ability to feed its citizens and its military.
- Mike will work hard to ensure a Safe, Abundant and Affordable Food Supply for Florida
- Mike Supports efforts to renegotiate NAFTA in order to affect a fair-trade agreement and bring trade agreements to the 21 st century.
- Mike is a trusted Defender of the 2nd Amendment, you have a right to carry a concealed weapon.
- Mike is an ardent Protector of Animal Health and Welfare and will devote the appropriate time and resources to prevent unnecessary regulations that harm animals and ease burdens off the farmers and ranchers.
- Mike will take proactive action that prevent Scams, Frauds and Abuse protocols to protect our citizenry.
- Initiate cost-effective actions for agricultural producers to employ for water conservation and reduction of agriculture products from entering our water resources.