CLEWISTON -- Florida Senator Rick Scott joined Congressman Scott Franklin, Florida Commissioner of Agriculture Wilton Simpson, Florida Fruit and Vegetable Association President Mike Joiner and Florida Farm Bureau President Jeb Smith for a roundtable discussion at the Sept. 8 celebration hosted by the Florida Agribusiness Council at the John Boy Auditorium in Clewiston.
Topics of discussion included the labor shortage, competition with imported food and the upcoming Farm Bill.
Franklin said trade bills are of special concern to Florida farmers, because they often pit Florida against Midwestern states. In order to gain access to a foreign market to export a crop grown in the Midwest, the U.S. agrees to allow those countries to export crops like winter vegetables to the U.S. -- competing with Florida farmers who grow the same crops. He said it’s not a level playing field because farmers in other countries do not have to meet the same standards for wages and health and safety measures required in Florida.
Scott said it’s dangerous to rely on imports from other countries for our food supply. The food supply is a matter of national security, he added.
He said it is important for everyone to write letters and speak out on the issues that matter to them.
Smith encouraged consumers to look for the “Fresh from Florida” sticker when shopping for food. He said the freshfromflorida.com website has recipes that incorporate seasonal Florida produce.
Following the discussion, Scott, Franklin, Simpson, Smith and Joiner met with farmers and ranchers.
Tables lined the room with samples of Florida’s bounty including shrimp, beef, chicken, alligator, strawberries, watermelon, tomatoes, corn, celery and cheese. Outside the auditorium, Milking R Dairy served up delicious ice cream in a variety of flavors.
The Clewiston High School Public Safety Academy provided the honor guard for the opening ceremony. The Moore Haven Middle High School Chorus sang the National Anthem.