Sunday, June 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: Handing out gift cards like candy at CareerSource

Editorial: Handing out gift cards like candy at CareerSource

It’s hard to pick the biggest outrage in the financial and ethical swamp that has swallowed Tampa Bay’s two primary job placement agencies, CareerSource Pinellas and CareerSource Tampa Bay. Is it the boiler room atmosphere where CareerSource recruite...
Published: 06/21/18
Updated: 06/22/18

Family separation crisis is not over

The family-separation crisis that President Donald Trump created is not over. The executive order Trump signed Wednesday purporting to end the routine tearing of children from their undocumented parents stands on uncertain legal ground. U.S. border a...
Published: 06/21/18
Updated: 06/22/18
Editorial: State help needed to staff hotlines with veterans helping veterans

Editorial: State help needed to staff hotlines with veterans helping veterans

Veterans can help veterans deal with trauma resulting from military service in a way no one else can. That’s the theory behind a special hotline set up in the Tampa Bay area that proponents are hoping to take statewide.The expansion would cost some $...
Published: 06/21/18
Updated: 06/22/18
Editorial: With Supreme Court ruling, Florida should collect sales tax from online retailers

Editorial: With Supreme Court ruling, Florida should collect sales tax from online retailers

It turns out the U.S. Supreme Court has a better grasp of the economic realities of the 21st century than Congress or the Florida Legislature. The court ruled Thursday that states can require online retailers to collect sales taxes even if the retail...
Published: 06/21/18
Updated: 06/22/18
Editorial: Congress should ban splitting kids, parents

Editorial: Congress should ban splitting kids, parents

The shocking scenes of immigrant children crying after being taken from their parents at the border exposed a new level of cruelty by the Trump administration, and though the president reversed course Wednesday, Congress needs to end the shameful pra...
Published: 06/21/18
Sessions kickstarts action on marijuana

Sessions kickstarts action on marijuana

Good job, Jeff Sessions! It seems the attorney general’s misguided attempts to revive the unpopular and unjust federal war on marijuana may be having the exact opposite effect — prompting a new bipartisan effort in Congress to allow states to legaliz...
Published: 06/18/18
Updated: 06/21/18
Editorial: A court victory for protecting Florida’s environment

Editorial: A court victory for protecting Florida’s environment

A Tallahassee judge has affirmed the overwhelming intent of Florida voters by ruling that state lawmakers have failed to comply with a constitutional amendment that is supposed to provide a specific pot of money to buy and preserve endangered lands. ...
Published: 06/18/18
Updated: 06/20/18
Editorial: Trump should stop taking children away from parents at the border

Editorial: Trump should stop taking children away from parents at the border

Innocent children should not be used as political pawns. That is exactly what the Trump administration is doing by cruelly prying young children away from their parents as these desperate families cross the Mexican border in search of a safer, better...
Published: 06/17/18
Updated: 06/19/18

Editorial: ATF should get tougher on gun dealers who violate the law

Gun dealers who break the law by turning a blind eye to federal licensing rules are as dangerous to society as people who have no right to a possess a firearm in the first place. Yet a recent report shows that the federal agency responsible for polic...
Published: 06/17/18
Updated: 06/18/18
Editorial: Encouraging private citizens to step up on transit

Editorial: Encouraging private citizens to step up on transit

The new grass-roots effort to put a transportation package before Hillsborough County voters in November faces a tough slog. Voters rejected a similar effort in 2010, and another in 2016 by elected officials never made it from the gate. But the lates...
Published: 06/15/18