— Tallahassee and more —
FFVA’s Emerging Leader Development Class recently returned from the hallways of the Florida Capitol, where they joined FFVA board members to talk with lawmakers about important agriculture issues during this year’s legislative session.
“We had a very educational and interesting trip to visit legislators,” said Sonia Tighe, the program’s executive director. “Butch Calhoun kept both the FFVA board members and the ELDP class exceptionally busy. The class was exposed to the reality of how bills and budgets are actually pieced together and passed. They also had a great opportunity to visit with legislators who have been supportive of the ag industry,” she said.
Ten of FFVA’s board members plus the 11 members of this year’s class discussed with legislators key topics for agriculture, including a bill that would exempt certain agricultural equipment and supplies from sales tax, and funding for the UF/IFAS’ Southwest Florida Research and Education Center.
Members of the leadership class had the chance to get an up-close look at the good, the bad and the ugly parts of the legislative process. For some it was their first visit — but likely not their last — to Tallahassee. For FFVA’s board members, the time is spent educating legislators about how bills would affect their ability to produce fresh fruits and vegetables for the state and the country. Over the course of two days, the group met with 10 legislators, along with Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam.
“My biggest takeaway from the Tallahassee trip was the level of synergy that exists between lawmakers and lobbyists,” said class member Geoff Roe. “My impression of lobbyists, perhaps swayed by what people say happens at the federal level, is that they disrupt or even corrupt the law-making process. I was pleased to learn how efficient the lawmaking process is in Tallahassee and how lobbyists actually help the process along, thanks to regulations on interactions between lawmakers and lobbyists,” Roe said.
“The take-home message for me was to start a dialogue with my representatives,” said class member Cathy Atchley. “I’m sure that it takes time to get to the point of familiarity, recognition, or first-name basis, but, Lord willing, we have time. I saw that several FFVA board members had in fact put in that time and were known by legislators or Commissioner Putnam.”
Another class member, Sam Glucksman, also was impressed. “The Tallahassee session helped me better understand the governmental structure and processes that are crucial to creating new policies and laws,” he said.
“It was great meeting all the legislative members and learning about the issues they are working on during this session,” Glucksman said. “It’s very nice to know that these people are willing to take time to speak with us. Furthermore, their offer to us to come knock on their door anytime was impressive. The overall message I got was that meeting face-to-face is much more effective than sending a letter or email,” he said.
“Seeing the FFVA Board members actually interacting with the legislators was very impressive. Hearing them discuss their issues and concerns was eye-opening for me because I am mainly involved with the daily production side of things and seldom get to talk about these things with them,” Glucksman said.
To learn the latest on bills of interest to FFVA members, read FFVA’s Capitol Voice bulletin here.
In January, the group was joined by participants in Western Growers Future Volunteer Leaders Program for a trip to South Florida agricultural operations.
Tour stops included U.S. Sugar, Duda, Southern Gardens Citrus, Sugar Cane Growers Cooperative, Everglades Research and Education Center, Pioneer Growers Cooperative, TKM Bengard, R.C. Hatton, Roth Farms, Veg Pro International, Hundley Farms, Lipman Produce and Grower’s Management.
The 2½-day trip concluded with a roundtable discussion with FFVA President Mike Stuart, United Fresh President Tom Stenzel and Western Growers Policy and Strategic Planning Manager Cory Lunde.
In December, representatives from the class delivered a large load of non-perishable food collected for families who participate in programs offered by the Redlands Christian Migrant Association. Class 3 members Jeff Goodale, Sam Glucksman and Dan Cavazos reported that the students at RCMA’s Belle Glade facility were “super excited” to receive the food. Staffers assured Jeff, Sam and Dan that it would be distributed to those who need it.
The group’s first session after being introduced at the 2013 convention was in November, when class members visited FFVA for a three-day overview of industry issues and opportunities, along with a look at how FFVA serves its members. The group heard presentations from FFVA directors and others on topics such as “Ag Water Supply and Policy,” “Florida Tomatoes: Present and Future Outlook,” and “Marketing, Membership, MRLs and Other Mayhem.” The class also participated in a leadership session led by Dr. Hannah Carter of the Wedgworth Leadership Institute.
Applications are now being accepted for the next class. If you know of a member of an FFVA family or company who is interested in becoming a member of Class 4, fill out an application and submit it to program director Sonia Tighe by May 1.
Access the application here.
To be eligible, applicants must be family members or employees of FFVA producer or trade associate members and be between 25 and 40. Participants must be working in or pursuing a career in Florida’s specialty crop industry. A class of up to 12 members will be selected for the one-year program.
For more information about the program, contact Tighe via e-mail or at 813-975-8377.
Cathy Atchley – On Point Ag
Ryan Atwood – Keyplex
Elton Baldy – Bayer CropScience
Daniel Cavazos – Veg Pro International
Sam Glucksman – Glades Crop Care
Jeff Goodale – Duda Farm Fresh Foods
Jamie Lang – PNC Bank
Clayton Norman – DuPont Crop Protection
Geoff Roe – Wm. G. Roe & Sons
Matt Stacey – Crop Production Services
Jordan Theis – Prudential Agricultural Investments