Monday, September 24, 2018
Editorials

Editorial: Congress should help Florida agriculture recover from Irma

Florida agriculture took a beating in September from Hurricane Irma, which caused hundreds of millions of dollars in losses across the citrus, sugar, cattle and dairy industries. Yet despite a personal plea from Gov. Rick Scott, the Trump administration again excluded money for Florida growers from its latest request for federal disaster aid. Agriculture is a vital economic driver in Florida, and it will be up to Congress to deliver the money necessary to help the industry recover.

According to state estimates, the industry least able to withstand heavy losses sustained the most. Citrus crops took a $761 million hit from the September storm, followed by the nursery industry at almost $624 million, according to state estimates. Some growers lost so much of their crop that they would lose money harvesting what little fruit survived.

Florida citrus is already besieged by the deadly greening disease, which turns fruit bitter, and forecasts indicate this year’s harvest may be down 27 percent from last year. Researchers are making progress toward finding a cure for greening, but the industry will need more assistance to sustain itself.

Irma did not spare Florida’s other agriculture sectors, according to state officials. The sugar industry suffered $383 million in losses. Cattle: $237.5 million. Vegetable and fruit growers, not including citrus: $180 million. Dairy: $11.8 million. Florida agriculture employs hundreds of thousands of full- and part-time workers and is the second-biggest economic driver behind tourism. It cannot be neglected.

But those concerns did not make it into the Trump administration’s $44 billion disaster aid package, the third since the summer’s hurricanes. (The first two ignored Florida growers, too.) The latest package shortchanges a wide array of needy constituencies, especially Puerto Rico, and suggests spending cuts to lessen the impact on the federal deficit. Natural disaster assistance is not the area of federal policy to address Washington’s long-term fiscal imbalance, not when so many Puerto Ricans are still waiting for the lights to come back on.

Florida officials and lawmakers were quick to criticize the disaster aid proposal. Rep. Dennis Ross, R-Lakeland, said, "The Florida delegation specifically requested this relief because there isn’t a citrus grove that wasn’t affected." Rep. Tom Rooney, R-Okeechobee, pointed to citrus as part of the identity of Florida. "Do we want to say that orange juice is produced and made in America? Without the inclusion of funds to address citrus crop losses, that is at risk," Rooney said. Sens. Marco Rubio and Bill Nelson also have both appealed for federal help, to no avail.

Last week, Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam called on Florida’s representatives in Congress to add help for the state’s farmers and ranchers to the next aid bill it passes. That’s what it will take as long as the Trump administration continues ignoring the very real needs of Florida’s second-largest industry.

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Editorial: Florida needs uniform standards for voting by mail

Editorial: Florida needs uniform standards for voting by mail

Vote by mail has been a stunning success in Florida, increasing turnout and making it easy and convenient to cast a ballot with time to research and reflect. But a new study shows that mail ballots cast by African-American, Hispanic or younger voters...
Published: 09/21/18
Editorial: Borrowers need protection from Marlin Financial

Editorial: Borrowers need protection from Marlin Financial

State and federal lending regulations exist to protect consumers from being surprised — and overwhelmed — by ballooning debt. Marlin Financial, a shadowy auto lender doing business around Florida, seems to be skirting those protections ...
Published: 09/21/18
Editorial: Putnam hire stinks of patronage, secrecy

Editorial: Putnam hire stinks of patronage, secrecy

In addition to a lesson on political patronage, Florida Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam needs a refresher on the particulars of state public records law.In January 2017, Putnam hired the 27-year-old son of a former Publix executive to a high-pay...
Published: 09/20/18
Editorial: Investigate first, then hold Kavanaugh confirmation vote

Editorial: Investigate first, then hold Kavanaugh confirmation vote

There should be a timely investigation of the allegation of sexual assault against Judge Brett Kavanaugh before senators hear from him and his accuser, let alone vote on whether they should confirm his nomination to the U.S. Supreme Court. The proces...
Published: 09/20/18
Editorial: Immigrants help to make America great

Editorial: Immigrants help to make America great

The heated debate on immigration could benefit from some more facts, which the U.S. Census has helpfully provided. And the facts show that rather than building walls, the United States would do far better to keep opening doors to legal immigrants. Th...
Published: 09/19/18
Updated: 09/20/18
Editorial: FDA acts to keep e-cigarettes from kids

Editorial: FDA acts to keep e-cigarettes from kids

The federal Food and Drug Administration is bringing important scrutiny to the increasing use of e-cigarettes, requiring companies that make and sell them to show they are keeping their products away from minors. Vaping is the new front in the nation...
Published: 09/18/18

Tuesday’s letters: Honor Flight restored my faith in America

Dogs are the best | Letter, Sept. 15Honor Flight restored my faith in AmericaJust as I was about to give up on our country due to divisiveness and and the divisions among its people and politicians, my pride was restored. As a member of the recen...
Published: 09/17/18
Updated: 09/19/18

Editorial cartoons for Sept. 18

From Times wires
Published: 09/17/18
Editorial: Senate should delay vote on Kavanaugh

Editorial: Senate should delay vote on Kavanaugh

The Senate and the nation needs to hear more about the sexual assault allegation against U.S. Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh. Setting aside Kavanaugh's judicial record, his political past and the hyper-partisan divide over his nomination, a no...
Published: 09/17/18
Editorial: Tampa council has another chance to show it takes Stovall House changes seriously

Editorial: Tampa council has another chance to show it takes Stovall House changes seriously

The Tampa City Council has yet to hear a compelling reason to allow a private social club in a residential neighborhood off Bayshore Boulevard, and a final meeting on the matter scheduled for Thursday offers the council a chance to show the diligence...
Published: 09/14/18