USDA forecasts strong year for veggie farmersThe USDA predicts vegetable producers will have a good year in its recently released Vegetables and Pulses Outlook report.

Here’s a quick overview:

Acres harvested. The number of fresh vegetable acres harvested in 2019 will rebound from 2018’s historic low, rising to 1,552,000 acres from 1,163,000. Processed vegetables will also see a rebound, but a very small one. USDA predicts growers will harvest about 1,190,000 of vegetables bound for processing, compared with 2018’s 1,163,000 acres harvested.

Production. The amount of harvested fresh vegetables in cwt will also rise, from 359 cwt to 385 cwt. Processing vegetables are forecasted to be slightly lower than 2018 (from 357 cwt to 354 cwt).

Crop value. Crop values and production often follow the numbers for acres harvested, so it’s no surprise the fresh vegetable industry will see a rebound in value from 2018. It will still fall short of 2017’s levels, however. In 2017, fresh vegetables hit a peak of close to $12 billion. That fell to $10.1 billion last year and it’s expected to grow to $10.9 billion.

Processing vegetables will likely remain flat, USDA predicts. It will rise from $1.72 billion to $1.78 billion.

Carol Miller is editor of American Vegetable Grower

Michael still hurting southeast farmersLast October, Hurricane Michael made landfall near Mexico Beach as a Category 5 hurricane with peak sustained winds estimated at 160 mph. It was the strongest hurricane on record to make landfall in the Florida Panhandle. Before the hurricane hit, the 2017 USDA Census of Agriculture estimated the market value of agricultural products sold in Georgia to be $9.6 billion. Those sold in Florida were valued at $7.4 billion.

Immediately after the hurricane, experts from the University of Georgia and the University of Florida estimated losses to agricultural production exceeded $2.5 billion in Georgia and $1.4 billion in Florida. (Additional data for timber losses was provided by the Georgia Forestry Commission and the Florida Forest Service.)

Agricultural producers in the region are struggling to recover from this disaster without additional federal assistance, even as the 2019 spring planting season is now fully underway. A recent survey of Cooperative Extension county agents in both states showed there is a great deal of continued uncertainty about future production in affected areas.

Many farmers in the region are unable to fully—or even partially—begin their usual production activities for the 2019 season because of the losses or damages sustained from Hurricane Michael. The lingering problems are more pronounced in field crops including cotton, peanuts, corn, and soybeans, as well as fruits, vegetables, pecans, and beef cattle. The most common reasons for the recovery delay: the lack of adequate financing and incomplete cleanup and repairs.

Some farmers have simply gone out of business or permanently stopped farming.

While current proposed federal solutions have called for a one-time special allocation of disaster assistance, it is important we also recognize the need for more permanent solutions to support disaster preparedness, response, and recovery within agricultural sectors. Existing programs such as crop insurance, the tree assistance program, emergency assistance for livestock, honeybees, and farm-raised fish, as well as the emergency forest restoration program are important risk-management strategies used by agricultural producers. But, these programs have proved to be insufficient during times of significant disaster.

Adam N. Rabinowitz is an agricultural economist at the University of Georgia College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences in the Department of Agricultural and Applied Economics

How to improve crop insuranceLanguage in the 2018 Farm Bill provides continued support for the federal crop insurance program and also provides guidance to USDA’s Risk Management Agency (RMA) to engage with specialty crop producers to design policies more suited for their unique seasons and challenges.

You can see the crop insurance program’s popularity in the numbers. Last year, 1.1 million crop insurance policies provided $110 billion in protection on more than 559 types of crops covering 340 million acres. While many crops are covered, some argue that major crop insurance elements are built around (too much so) the Midwest row crop commodities like corn and soybeans.

Martin Barbre, RMA’s administrator, was in Florida recently touring farms to learn how crop insurance programs could be modified to better fit the needs of specialty crop growers. Joining him on the tour were Davina Lee, director of the Valdosta RMA Regional Office (which covers Florida), and Matthew Wilkin, deputy director of the Valdosta office. The tour was hosted by Farm Credit of Central Florida and stops featured local strawberry, blueberry, ornamental nursery, and citrus operations.

It is a good time to get grower feedback, because new policies are being developed for key specialty crops. A new nursery policy is being developed for select counties in Florida. RMA also is working on a new strawberry policy, as well as policies to replace the current fresh-market tomato, fresh-market sweet corn, and pepper policies offered in Florida.

The tour made stops at Beck Brothers grove in Windermere and Heller Bros. citrus packinghouse in Winter Garden. Barbre heard about challenges impacting their businesses, including Hurricane Irma recovery, post-bloom fruit drop, and HLB.

Currently, the citrus industry is developing a new policy using a 508(h) application process, which allows growers to propose a crop insurance plan they design. The citrus industry is developing the program with the help of Florida Citrus Mutual (FCM) and AgriLogic Consulting, a private insurance firm. Growers with questions, concerns, or suggestions on federal crop insurance can reach out to the regional RMA office at RSOGA@rma.usda.gov or call 229-242-7235. The website, RMA.USDA.gov, offers additional information.

Frank Giles is editor of Florida Grower

Questions about hemp/CBD in Fla.During the 2019 legislative session, the Florida Legislature approved a bill that allows the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services (FDACS) to create a state hemp/CBD program. After the bill has been signed by the governor, the new law will go into effect on July 1.

When the bill becomes law, FDACS will begin rulemaking to implement the new statutes and will provide the opportunity for public comment. Once the rules have been adopted, producers will be able to apply for permits to grow hemp.

When will FDACS start the rulemaking process?

We are planning to hold public workshops in June, which will give interested parties the opportunity to provide feedback on draft rule language. FDACS intends to hold at least three workshops across the state (north, central and south) and expects to announce exact locations by the end of May.

Can I plant hemp now?

No. The 2018 Farm Bill, which authorizes states to adopt hemp cultivation programs, requires FDACS to issue cultivation permits. Before these permits can be issued, the Governor must sign Florida’s hemp bill into law and FDACS must complete the rulemaking to create the permitting process. Only then can producers apply for a hemp cultivation permit.

Why aren’t CBD products legal in Florida right now?

Section 893.02, Florida Statutes, defines cannabis products, which are not legal for sale outside of certified Medical Marijuana Treatment Centers. Once Florida’s state hemp legislation becomes law, consumers can legally purchase CBD products and businesses can legally grow, process, manufacture and sell those CBD products, in accordance with the new state law.

Are you sending cease-and-desist letters to CBD retailers?

No, cease-and-desist letters have not been sent by FDACS. Once our state hemp program takes effect, CBD products can be fully tested, regulated and approved as safe for consumption.

Can I be put on a mailing list to receive updates on the progress of Florida’s hemp/CBD program?

Yes.

Information submitted to the Department is a public record unless exempted by Florida law. You may also share this information with us by contacting our consumer assistance team at 1-800-HELP-FLA or 1-800-435-7352 or by sending correspondence to: Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services, Plaza Level 10, The Capitol, 400 S. Monroe St., Tallahassee, Fla. 32399-0800.

Florida ag commissioner Nikki Fried

Florida Grouper Sandwich with New Potato SaladIngredients

8 (3-ounce) Florida grouper fillets, sliced thin

2 Florida tomatoes, sliced

1 teaspoon cajun seasoning

8 small rolls

1 small head romaine lettuce, shredded

1 red onion, sliced thin

1 tablespoon oil for cooking

1/3 cup mayonnaise

½ lemon, juiced

1 teaspoon paprika

Cayenne pepper to taste

Sea salt and fresh ground pepper, to taste

Florida New Potato Salad

6 cups Florida new potatoes, quartered, cooked and cooled

2 tablespoons rice vinegar

1 tablespoon olive oil

2 tablespoons mayonnaise

½ cup assorted color Florida bell peppers, diced

½ cup red onion, diced

2 tablespoons fresh parsley, chopped

Sea salt and fresh ground pepper, to taste

Prep

Florida Grouper Sandwich

Preheat a large sauté pan over medium-high heat. Lightly season the grouper fillets with Cajun seasoning, salt and pepper. Put the cooking oil in the preheated pan and carefully add the seasoned fish fillets to the pan. Cook fillets for about 2 minutes on each side depending on thickness until golden brown and cooked throughout. Place fillets on cut, open rolls. In a small bowl, combine mayonnaise, lemon juice, paprika and cayenne. Taste and adjust seasoning with salt and pepper. Assemble sliders using lemon mayo, lettuce, tomato and red onion. Use a bamboo skewer if needed to keep sliders standing. Serve with potato salad.

Florida New Potato Salad

Combine all ingredients into a medium-sized mixing bowl. Stir completely combine. Taste potato salad and adjust seasoning with salt and pepper. Serve cold.

freshfromflorida.com

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