Wilton Simpson, Florida Commissioner of Agriculture, joined Good Morning Keys on KeysTalk 96.9/102.5FM this morning to talk about what’s been going on in the state.
The Department is going back to the legislature again this year to ask for an additional $300 million for the Rural and Family Lands Act.
Simpson said, “We’re vetting the project. So every four or five years Rural and Family Lands would open up their program, and farmers would apply for the program, then they would get vetted and ranked. Then if the legislature ever gave any money, of course, we would buy those development rights through the department. We have the 300 million today. We’re hoping for an additional $300 million, but we had over a billion and a half dollars of opportunities to vet in this year’s opening. We’re going to open the program again next year and hopefully take in additional properties. So we’ve got a lot of opportunity. I’ll remind everybody listening, when you do it through the Rural and Family Lands, we’re not actually purchasing the land. The landowner, the farmer, will maintain the ownership of their land, it will remain on the local tax rolls. But they no longer can develop those lands. They can keep them for agriculture. We always couple of this conversation with the wildlife corridor.”
The wildlife corridor is everywhere it’s dark on a map of the state of Florida at nighttime.
Simpson said, “It’s where our aquifer is recharged, and it’s where we grow your food. We need to preserve as much of that land as we can for all three of those functions and as the Commissioner of Agriculture and when you think about our supply chain and our food supply, it’s a national security issue. People don’t always equate food with national security. We do other commodities but not food. Imagine no groceries in the grocery store for just one week. We would have total chaos in this country and of course if we were without a month of groceries, people would be starving to death. So food is a national security issue. This Rural and Family Lands program is the key for long term survivability of agriculture here in the state of Florida.”
The food supply is critical when there is war in other parts of the world.
Simpson said, “How embarrassing is it to have Americans that are pro Hamas, doing the demonstrations? Of course, we value peaceful demonstrations in this country and we are Americans. But think about the indoctrination that’s going on in our university system that leads to these types of problems. When they’re doing this indoctrination, they don’t think about the supply chain of your food supply, they don’t think about during the pandemic, we couldn’t buy vehicles, because they couldn’t get semiconductors from our foreign enemies. When you think about what is wrong in the world, and the indoctrination of these types of policies from around the world, we’re getting away from our capitalist roots. Unfortunately, the university system, they’re socialism factories. But it’s much worse than that when you look at the type of indoctrination going on, and I tried to do something about it when I was president, we were unsuccessful, but I said that look, if you are in a bright future scholarship in the state, congratulations. But we’re not going to allow you to go to the university system and get indoctrinated with our bright futures. We want to make sure the classes that we pay for with taxpayer money is going to build a bright future. At that time, I did not have the support of the governor and so we didn’t get it done. By the way, in the state of Florida, we’re ranked number one by World News Report. We’re doing as best we can, but even in the state of Florida with the liberal indoctrination of our university systems, and we’re challenging it, we’re fighting back. But it’s overwhelmingly still the other way.”
Governor Ron DeSantis’s administration passed a ban on student organizations protesting in favor of Hamas.
Simpson said, “When you see what Hamas stands for, and Hezbollah and Iran, in the Middle East, and you have a partner like Israel, that’s willing to take care of those threats, the axis of evil. When you think about the axis of evil here where you’ve got Hezbollah to the North, you’ve got Hamas and you’ve got Iran, a generation is eventually going to have to deal with this problem. Meaning that when that group of terrorists, its only desire is to kill, in this case, Jews, but Americans also, we will one day have to face that. The question is, are we going to face it now, while we have a better advantage before they have nuclear weapons? But at some point, we’re going to have to face that, and I hope Israel in this campaign will certainly eliminate Hamas. But until you get to the root of that problem, which is Iran, you’re never going to have fixed it. I’m ashamed, by the way, that the Biden administration has allowed Iran to sell the oil they have on the open market, to the tune of 80 or $100 billion in the last three years, which is what is funding all of these efforts. When President Trump was in office he had sanctioned them to where they held them sealed off. They were going bankrupt. President Biden comes in and allows them to start selling oil now and they’ve amassed well over $80 billion of wealth. And that $80 billion is what Israelis are fighting today on ground.”
The Department of Agriculture also works with landlord tenant law in Florida.
Simpson said, “When I was Senate president I actually did several laws and helped work with Monroe County to make sure that we were had the ability to have more affordable workforce housing in the Keys. There were several projects that were built out. There are many others available to be built out. When you think about affordable housing and workforce housing in the Keys, I think it’s very important that we continue to work. The local governments are going to have to make those available. We have to have the environment, to where private capital will come in and build out these facilities. We do not want government owning more and more of our land. We do not want government controlling more and more of our capital assets. That leads to socialism, which leads to many other problems. But we do need to create the environment and we have in the state of Florida. We’ve created the environment. We’re funding it fully every year. I think as a state, it’s our job to put the environment in place where capitalism will come in and build out these facilities and then obviously, as spending your taxpayer dollar, we can make sure these projects stay 30 to 60 years in workforce housing, rather than a 15 year sunset or a 20 year sunset. We can make sure those sunsets are out further so that we stop losing workforce housing, because we can’t build it fast enough. Then those projects that were built 20 years ago and 30 years ago that are rolling out of workforce now going into full pay is also doubling up the problem. So we’ve worked on most of those things in Tallahassee, I think it’s making a difference. But this is a decade’s long problem when you have over 1,000 net immigration a day driving up real estate prices and of course the inflation that the federal government has put on us with their ignorant policies in the last couple of years. So we’re having to deal with all these things at once and but again, I believe that the private solutions are the solutions that are going to last for the long run.”
The upcoming legislative session is important.
Simpson said, “The reality is that a lot of farmers were hurt during this hurricane (Idalia) versus a lot of our population. It didn’t hit in a major population center. So this this week, the legislature has passed and I think they’re on the floor today with about $100 million of relief for your farming community to help rebuild, mostly on infrastructure. If you lost a barn, if you lost a center pivot, if you lost your fences and those things, we’re making available 0% interest loans, plus some forgiveness if the farmer continues to own that property for a decade. So we’re structuring this program to where our farmers can get back on their feet. I think it’s very important for that infrastructure, because without the infrastructure, you can’t produce that food. We’re also focusing on reforestation, and I’ll give you a bad example, during Hurricane Michael, they’re still about 50 percent of the material on the ground. We call it fuel, the trees, the material that’s on the ground below those trees. Unfortunately, if we had a major lightning strike in the wrong area, you could have a major fire in North Florida today because of that. That hurricane was nearly was over five years ago now. What I’m hoping is, we’re going to continue to clean up that effort. But in addition, with Hurricane Idalia dollars we’re getting I hope within a few years to have Hurricane Idalia reforested and cleaned up so that we can avoid not only severe wildfires, which you’ve seen what happens in Canada and out west, but also make sure that we get this reforestation done to support those local farmers.”
Agriculture is critical for the state.
Simpson said, “Agriculture is the number two leading driver of the economy in the state of Florida. So we have over two and a half million of our citizens working in agriculture, over $180 billion a year of economic output. So I’m always counting, as it should be, in terms of you need a farmer three times a day. The supply chain is critical. We’ve got to make sure we maintain that supply chain. But the reality is during a recession or during the pandemic, agriculture is also the leading driver of the economy. So it’s very important that we tend to the business of agriculture, not only for our existence, because, again, we have to have our food supply and forests, but also for the well being of the economy in the state of Florida and the country. We get up every day looking to see how we can support our farmers here in the state of Florida. We want to make sure we have the most safe, affordable abundant food anywhere in the world. Your department is doing a great job. We have a great team in the Department of Agriculture and I’m really proud of them.”