The Department of Agriculture covers many different issues

Wilton Simpson, the 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.

We are currently in wildfire season, so it’s important to be diligent.

Simpson said, “We have wild fires all over the state and we have such professional men and women putting these forest fires out. Well, first of all, containing them so they can be put out. It’s such an honor to work with these men and women.”

A lot of the fires are started by lightning. Precipitation would certainly help with getting moisture in the ground.

Simpson said, “If you have a backyard fire, if you’re going out and visiting our beautiful forests over the next few months, please, pay close attention to any camp fires that you’re starting.”

Some fires in the forests throughout the state are also man made and can be prevented.

The Rural and Family Lands Act allows the Department of Agriculture to purchase development rights from farmers and land owners so those lands will remain in farming in perpetuity.

If you google the state of Florida at night, you will be able to see the lights of the cities in the state. Every dark area represents the wildlife corridor.

Simpson explained, “Everywhere it’s dark are where are farmlands are. The more development rights we can buy from those farmers, the more we can ensure our future of having adequate farmland to be able to farm in this state. Today we have the most safe, affordable, abundant food anywhere in the world. If we’re going to ensure that for future generations it’s going to be because we’ve taken action with the Rural and Family Lands.”

The state continues to provide funding for infrastructure in the Keys.

Simpson said, “I visit the Keys several times a year. I love the Keys. We continue to bring state resources to the Keys.”

The aqueduct will certainly be looked at this year, as well.

Red tide is a concern, too.

Simpson said, “Any time we have a major storm like Ian that brought so much water to the heartland of the state and then it flooded and all that nutrient system that’s out in the Gulf, in the Atlantic, you’ve got additional nutrient load there, which we believe is clearly exacerbating the red tide issue. We’ve spent tens of millions of dollars researching and studying red tide. Is there some things we can do to neutralize the red tide? We’re making some progress. I know in the Keys we’re looking at some reef restoration projects to help the environment.”

Seventy percent of the nutrient load that comes into Lake Okeechobee basin comes from the northern Everglades. Nutrient loads are nutrients that can act like fertilizer and create algae.

Once the storage component in the north is built, it will treat water to drinking standards and help the whole system.

Simpson said, “Those projects are ongoing. It’s something that’s very important to not only the Everglades, but the Keys.”

Funding for the Everglades and south Florida restoration projects has increased every year.

Agricultural land in Florida will not be sold to foreign enemies of the United States.

Simpson said, “It’s another national security issue that Florida is taking the lead on.”