– From The Harvester, October 1968
– Three senators give state legislative view
– Three Florida state senators — Reuben O’D Askew, Jerry Thomas and John Mathews — told FFVA members at the FFVA Annual Convention’s third business session about the state Legislature and agriculture.
Sen. Thomas, chairman of the Senate Committee on Agriculture and Livestock, said one of the biggest challenges facing agriculture is informing citizens of agriculture’s contribution to the economy of the state.
He said Florida ranchers and farmers spend more than $600 million each year on production goods such as tractors, trucks, chemicals, etc. and that agriculture also is one of the largest users of credit in the state.
He said the annual retail value of agricultural products is $4.5 billion, which is more than the combined income of tourism and industry.
He commented that Palm Beach County was the fourth largest agricultural county, but tourists, retirees and industrial workers don’t know it.
“This has been my primary concern – that agriculture would become a stepchild in Florida’s quest for greater tourism and industrial development.”
Thomas said agriculture got a big kick in the teeth from the 1967 Legislature when Gov. Claude Kirk vetoed time and again funds for the Apopka foliage lab, the fire ant program and funds for IFAS.
He said the governor allowed the bill to pass after citizens contacted legislators and showed their support for funds needed for agriculture.
The senator was strong in his praise of the research and contribution made to agriculture by IFAS and the extension services. He said the two had made it possible for Florida farm income since 1948 to increase some 216 percent as compared to a 40 percent national increase.
Sen. Askew called agriculture the backbone of the Florida economy. He said many problems facing Florida agriculture such as imports and offshore labor would have to be solved on the national level, but added the state Legislature was interested in helping to find solutions to these problems.
Sen. John Mathews spoke on law and order and said there won’t be a market for produce if law and order isn’t preserved. He called law enforcement the stepchild of government over the years and said we should beef up the economic status, the size and the prestige of our law enforcement officers.