All posts by Shelby Martin

Rural Recharge Episode 17 Out Now

Kevin Lussier, AFBF Young Farmers & Ranchers Chair, joins President Jeb S. Smith on the newest episode of Rural Recharge.  

Lussier owns and operates Hawthorne Dairy in Alachua County. In 2021, Lussier and his wife, Shelby, were the Florida Farm Bureau Achievement in Agriculture state winners. Kevin has served on the Florida Farm Bureau state YF&R Leadership Group, the Florida Farm Bureau state board and now serves on the national level as the AFBF YF&R Committee Chair.  

In this episode, Lussier shares his journey to becoming a dairy farmer, his involvement with the Florida Farm Bureau YF&R leadership group, his national involvement with American Farm Bureau and current issues he sees young farmers facing.  

Tied to Ag: Tyler and Emily Shadrick, Madison County

July 2024 FloridAgriculture eNewsletter 

Tyler and Emily Shadrick are first generation blueberry growers in Madison County. Growing up in a small, rural town, their families were friends long before the two became a couple. Although they did not grow up on farms, the couple enjoys being part of the agriculture community and starting a farm of their own. 

Tyler learned a lot about farming during his employment on various farms. After taking a step back, he decided to start farming for himself. In 2019, Shadrick Farms was founded. 

In addition to running Shadrick Farms, Tyler is the facility manager for Madison Youth Ranch North Campus of Residing Hope Children’s Home and Emily is a third-grade teacher.  

Although Farm Bureau has always been a part of the Shadricks’ life from an insurance perspective, it wasn’t until a few years ago that Tyler and Emily became involved with the Madison County YF&R Program. Buck Carpenter, an active Farm Bureau member in the county, encouraged the couple to attend the group’s meetings and later helped them earn scholarships to attend the YF&R Leadership Conference.  

“I have really enjoyed getting to meet new people through Farm Bureau and learning that there’s a lot more agriculture in Florida than what my county brings to the table,” said Tyler Shadrick. “We had no idea about all the leadership opportunities that the leadership group would offer us when we joined.”  

As members of the YF&R state leadership group, Tyler and Emily have had the opportunity to learn about agriculture on a state and national level. Tyler serves as the Class X President, which gives him a seat on the Florida Farm Bureau state board. This has been an eye-opening experience as they continue to strengthen their tie to agriculture. 

“I stay tied to ag by connecting national issues with my county,” said Tyler. “I have gotten to go to Washington, D.C. and learn about big issues that aren’t being talked about on a county level. I try to bring what I’ve learned to my county and help create a solution.”  

Florida Farm Bureau Submits Letter for the S2G RCPP Project 

July 2024 FloridAgriculture eNewsletter

The Suwannee to Gulf (S2G) Regional Conservation Partnership Program (RCPP) Project proposal addresses the National Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) natural resource concerns of the Longleaf Pine Critical Conservation Area through a strategy of easement programs coupled with conservation land management.  Their goals are:

  • Permanent land protection: 10,500 acres over five years, including NRCS and Partner program acquisitions. 
  • Restoration of terrestrial habitat for imperiled species: conservation land management of 10,000 acres 
  • Connection of existing conservation lands to improve the landscape resiliency of the Suwannee River basin. 
  • Promote conservation activities that improve wildlife habitat, water quality, water conservation, drought resilience, forest land restoration and protection, and promote carbon sequestration. 
  • Protect cropland, grasslands and working forestland by limiting non-agricultural uses of the land through conservation easements.  
  • Assist farmers, ranchers, and forest landowners with the integration of conservation best management practices into working lands. 
  • S2G RCPP project outreach will target participation of 100 HU producers per year in the UF Small Farms Academy (SFA).  
  • The S2G RCPP partners aim to invest at least 10% of project financial assistance to HU producers. 

Working with Florida NRCS, RCPP partners will bring a combination of land protection and land management programs to S2G project area landowners.  The RCPP investment of about $20 million will be matched by partner contributions valued at an additional $20 million, making for a total project investment of $40 million over five years.   

The support letter can be found here. Any questions regarding the project can be directed to Curt Williams

FFBF Provides Comments on 2024 Water Resources Development Act  

July 2024 FloridAgriculture eNewsletter

Florida Farm Bureau Federation has submitted a letter to Chairman Sam Graves and Ranking Member Rick Larsen of the House Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure regarding the markup to the bipartisan 2024 Water Resources Development Act of 2024 (WRDA).  

This letter was requested by Congressman Daniel Webster (R-FL, District 11).  The letter’s goal is to showcase a broad coalition of stakeholders who support WRDA before the June 26 markup. 

“In Florida, Everglades Restoration is a great example of collaboration and bipartisan cooperation,” said Lance Watson, FFBF Director of National Legislative Affairs. “Since its inclusion in the WRDA 2000, Comprehensive Everglades Restoration Plan (CERP) and Everglades Restoration projects have had staunch support from utilities, municipalities, environmental organizations, agriculture and other key stakeholders. The strength of Everglades Restoration has come through extensive local, science-based, inclusive planning efforts that yield project designs that are broadly supported. We greatly appreciate the agricultural community being considered and heard in the WRDA 2024.” 

The Water Resources Development Act is important to members for many reasons. It authorizes projects to improve inland waterway navigation, flood and storm protection, and other aspects of our water resources infrastructure. Additionally, it delivers regional and national benefits for strengthening our global competitiveness and supply chain, growing the economy, moving goods and allows our inland waterways to move products and commodities more efficiently to markets 

Florida Farm Bureau submitted a letter on June 17, 2024. Members are encouraged to contact Director of National Affairs Lance Watson, with any questions or concerns.  

South Florida Water Management District Vertical Datum Upgrade

July 2024 FloridAgriculture eNewsletter

To enhance the accuracy of their data, the South Florida Water Management District (SFWMD) is upgrading the reference system used to measure water elevations in our monitoring network. SFWMD is currently in the process of shifting from reporting water elevations in the National Geodetic Vertical Datum of 1929 (NGVD 29) to the North American Vertical Datum of 1988 (NAVD 88). This includes data within the SFWMD’s environmental database for hydrologic, meteorologic, hydrogeologic and water quality data. 

The upgrade will provide the public and stakeholders with more accurate information about levels for waterbodies in the region. 

Depending on the location within the SFWMD, water levels in the newer NAVD 88 measurement system will be about 0.6 feet to 1.6 feet lower than in the older NGVD 29 measurement system. 

For example, the difference between the two measuring standards in Lake Okeechobee is 1.25 feet, so a water level of 11.25 feet NAVD 88 is 12.5 feet NGVD 29. 

Water elevations are reported as the height of the water surface compared to sea level. Water depth, on the other hand, is the height of the water surface as measured from the bottom of the water body. When NAVD 88 is fully implemented in 2024, water measurements will be published exclusively in NAVD 88. 

As of now, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers has not stated that they will be transitioning as well, so for the time being, water levels will have to be reviewed through two different reference systems. 

U.S. Trade Deficit Set to Drastically Increase 

July 2024 FloridAgriculture eNewsletter

The United States agricultural trade deficit is set to increase substantially to $32 billion in the 2024 fiscal year. This is a $1.5 billion increase from the February projection, according to the USDA Economic Research Service’s May 2024 Outlook

After learning of this concerning increase, the Florida Farm Bureau Board of Directors requested a draft letter be sent to U.S. Trade Representative, Ambassador Katherine Tai and the Secretary of the United States Department of Agriculture, Tom Vilsack. 

Members can read the letters here. Any questions should be directed to Director of National Legislative Affairs Lance Watson


2024 Legislative Session Update

July 2024 FloridAgriculture eNewsletter

Reflecting on recent events in Tallahassee, the 2024 legislative session concluded successfully in March. Although some priorities didn’t make it across the finish line, many budget and policy victories were achieved.  

With the leadership of Florida Agricultural Commissioner Wilton Simpson, along with the support of Senate President Designate Ben Albritton and Speaker-Elect Danny Perez, as well as many other agricultural supporters in the House and Senate, there is great optimism for the upcoming 2025 legislative session beginning next March. 

As Farm Bureau begins to build its legislative agenda for the 2025 session, members are encouraged to bring forward their issues as there could be options to address issues during the coming legislative session. 

Legislative Affairs Director Tripp Hunter expresses his gratitude for the opportunity to represent such a vital industry in Tallahassee and looks forward to continuing to work to protect and advance Florida agriculture.  


FFBF Welcomes New Legislative Staff

July 2024 FloridAgriculture eNewsletter

Florida Farm Bureau welcomes two new staff members, Tripp Hunter and Lance Watson. Hunter is the Director of State Legislative Affairs and Watson the Director of National Legislative affairs. Both will be working out of the Tallahassee office. 

About Tripp Hunter 

Tripp Hunter was born and raised in Tallahassee, Florida, and has been immersed in agriculture from a young age. Growing up, he gained experience in various forms of agriculture, starting with the timber industry and later transitioning to the nursery production industry. He attended Auburn University, where he earned a bachelor’s degree in Agricultural Business and Economics. Hunter recently married his high-school sweetheart, Sarah, who is a second-grade teacher. 

After college, Hunter greatly enjoyed working in production agriculture where he was an Operations Manager for Simpson Nurseries. He it was a tough decision but when an opportunity to enter the Government Affairs world representing the Florida Fruit and Vegetable Association arose, Hunter accepted.  

He hit the ground running learning about industry issues and the legislative process. His passion for representing agricultural interests led him to his current role as the State Legislative Affairs Director for Florida Farm Bureau. 


About Lance Watson 

Lance Watson was born and raised in Quincy, Florida and is part of a fourth-generation farming family. Watson is a proud two-time graduate of Florida State University where he earned a bachelor’s degree in political science and history and a master’s degree in public policy.  He has worked for U.S. Senator Marco Rubio, the Public Service Commission and the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission. Watson is married and has one son, Sterling Lance Watson III. 

New Regulation Schedule for Lake Okeechobee Announced

July 2024 FloridAgriculture eNewsletter

Pursuant to the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA), the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Jacksonville District (USACE) has issued a Notice of Availability for the Lake Okeechobee System Operating Manual (LOSOM) Final Environmental Impact Statement (EIS). USACE is proposing a new regulation schedule for Lake Okeechobee within an updated Water Control Plan (WCP).

The regulation schedule is a compilation of operating criteria, guidelines, and figures that govern the quantity, timing, and duration of releases out of the lake. The regulation schedule establishes the agency’s operational strategy to balance the congressionally authorized project purposes for flood risk management, water supply, enhancement of fish and wildlife, navigation, and recreation. Implementation of this regulation schedule corresponds with the completion of the Herbert Hoover Dike (HHD) rehabilitation and considers completed or nearly completed Comprehensive Everglades Restoration Plan projects. LOSOM is intended to replace the current Lake Okeechobee Regulation Schedule, known as the 2008 LORS (LORS08).  

Florida Farm Bureau Concerns Revolve Around Four Topics: 

  1. The State’s ability to meet water supply needs under LOSOM 
  1. The unprecedented flexibility in LOSOM’s operation plan may cause impact outside of those identified through the NEPA process 
  1. The proposed plan’s modeling results produce EAA irrigation water demand volumes substantially less than volumes in the real-world data set 
  1. LOSOM does not include a water conservation or beneficial use zone above the Water Shortage Management (WSM) Zone that would reduce the risk of entering the WSM Zone. Clear and concise deference is not given to the SFWMD prior to water shortage 

The Corps has stated they will review comments, address concerns, update minor changes, and are very set on a Record of Decision scheduled on August 12, 2024. Florida Farm Bureau submitted comments that can be read here.  

Farm Bill Update  

July 2024 FloridAgriculture eNewsletter

On May 23, the House Agriculture Committee marked up their version of the Farm Bill during a debate that lasted 13 hours and contained many amendments. The bill passed out of committee with favorable votes from all Republicans on the committee and four Democrats. Florida Congresswoman Kat Cammack voted in favor and Congressman Darren Soto opposed the bill. 

Most of the Farm Bill priorities of FFBF are contained within the bill, including: 

  • Reference price increases and funding for other risk management tools
  • Funding for the specialty crop block grant program
  • Returning the Class I milk mover to the ‘higher of’ calculation
  • Codifying authority for USDA to utilize block grants for disaster funding, and
  • Continuation of the sugar policy

An amendment was offered to require a mandatory base update, but that amendment failed. 

The House has turned their attention to appropriations for the summer, so there will likely not be any more movement in the House until the lame duck session at the end of the year. The Senate has not advanced any form of the Farm Bill within the Senate Ag Committee yet. 

Director of National Affairs Lance Watson will keep members informed as more information becomes available.