The Florida Farm Bureau announced its Legislators of the Year and Champions for Agriculture awards even as the Florida Legislature continues to hold a special session in Tallahassee this week. On Tuesday, the Farm Bureau named state Sen. Kelli Stargel, R-Lakeland, and state Rep. Katie Edwards, D-Sunrise, as Legislators of the Year. The group also recognized Florida House Speaker Steve Crisafulli, R-Merritt Island, for his work on agriculture issues. Both Crisafulli and Edwards have garnered buzz as potential candidates for higher office, including state agriculture commissioner.
The Farm Bureau honored Stargel for lowering sales taxes and regulations on farms and ranches
“Florida Farm Bureau thanks Sen. Stargel for her tremendous efforts on behalf of Florida agriculture in 2015,” said Adam Basford, the Florida Farm Bureau’s director of state legislative affairs. “Sen. Stargel’s dedication and passion for agriculture were exemplified in the $13 million in tax relief package she spearheaded. We appreciate Sen. Stargel’s leadership and advocacy for agriculture in the Florida Senate.”
The ranking Democrat on the House Agriculture and Natural Resources Subcommittee, Edwards was honored for her work on property rights and record on agriculture in general.
“Rep. Katie Edwards is a true legislative advocate for Florida agriculture in Tallahassee,” said Basford. “She works incredibly hard, and her work ethic was on display as she took on the issue of protecting private rights this year. We appreciate Rep. Edwards’ support and leadership.”
The group also named six senators and 18 representatives as “Champions for Agriculture.”
“Florida Farm Bureau is grateful to the legislative leaders in Tallahassee who recognize the important role agriculture plays in our state’s economy and demonstrate exceptional leadership and advocacy on behalf of Florida’s farmers and ranchers,” said John Hoblick, the president of the Florida Farm Bureau. “Each of these Champions for Agriculture played crucial roles in promoting or passing legislation that lowered taxes and reduced regulations on agricultural producers in 2015. We are grateful for their efforts that allow farm families to continue to produce food, benefit our state’s economy and conserve natural resources.”
Besides Stargel, Republicans Greg Evers of Pensacola, Denise Grimsley of Sebring, Alan Hays of Umatilla and Wilton Simpson of New Port Richey and Democrat Bill Montford of Tallahassee were named as Champions of Agriculture in the Senate.
Crisafulli and Edwards were named Champions of Agriculture in the House. So were Republican state Reps. Ben Albritton of Barton, Halsey Beshears of Monticello, Matt Caldwell of Lehigh Acres, Neil Combee of Auburndale, Brad Drake of Marianna, Tom Goodson of Titusville, Debbie Mayfield of Vero Beach, Larry Metz of Groveland, Cary Pigman of Sebring, Ray Pilon of Sarasota, Jake Raburn of Valrico, Jimmie Smith of Inverness, Jennifer Sullivan of Eustis and John Wood of Winter Haven and Democrat Rep. Kevin Rader of Boca Raton.
The Florida Farm Bureau also showcased Crisafulli’s support of fighting for tax exemptions for agriculture and backing the state Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services and the University of Florida’s Institute for Food and Agricultural Sciences.
“We want to thank Speaker Crisafulli for his exceptional leadership and dedicated support of Florida’s agricultural producers during his time in the Legislature,” Hoblick said. “Florida Farm Bureau is proud to recognize a longtime member and one of agriculture’s most effective advocates for his efforts to make agriculture stronger and more competitive.
“We join the rest of Florida’s agricultural community to thank Speaker Crisafulli for his dedication and commitment during his career as a Florida legislator,” Hoblick added.
An official awards presentation will be held at the Florida Farm Bureau’s annual meeting in Ponte Vedra Beach in October.
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