We really look forward to seeing as many of you as we can accommodate at this year’s annual convention. As we all know this COVID-19 situation has been less than desirable for us all and with it the JW Marriott has set some guidelines that we are to follow. This will allow us to pull off this convention without incident. So please, at my personal request for you and all your volunteer leaders and staff—let’s follow the guidelines and make this the best convention that we have had in years, enjoying each other’s company and celebrating 500 years of cattle grazing in Florida. Thank You! I greatly appreciate everyone’s understanding. Now on to the 12th and final Presidents’ message I will have the honor to share with you.
I will end the message as we began—humbled, honored, thankful, and recognizing the great privilege to have been able to serve each of you as President of the Florida Cattlemen’s Association. I am grateful to our God, Lord and Savior Jesus Christ for providing me the health, ability, strength, courage, and guidance through this challenging year. I thank my loving family for their support. I am forever thankful to the agricultural families that allowed me to work, taught me, and mentored me, and guided me in developing my love for agriculture and especially for the cattle industry. People and families like Mr. Neely Saddler for allowing me to hunt cows with them some 42+ years ago, tying me back to my family’s roots in Taylor county. Mr. Red Simpson for allowing me to drive that truck and trailer on the hard road at age 13. Mr. Jack Brack for placing that hoe in my hand at a young age. And a special debt of gratitude to Dr. A.E. Whaley and family for putting up with me and for treating me like family through my rough years. Thank you to the Kempfer and Geech Partin families, with special thanks to their parents for allowing me to hang around. And couple final shout outs to Mr. Dan B. Childs for bringing me down to Buck Island Ranch, Dr. John Fitzpatrick for hiring me, and an extra special thank you to Dr. Hilary Swain, Archbold’s Board of Directors, and the whole Archbold team for affording me the time to take on the President’s role over the last year and to our Archbold scientists for writing those informative articles over the last year.
Our guiding words for the year were ‘Open Gates Open Minds’. These words were in direct response to the path and leadership of our Immediate Past President, Mr. Matt Pearce. Over the last two years he and I opened our gates and had on-ranch discussions with Water Management District Governing Board members, agency leaders, environmentalists, and the public, sharing the facts about the watershed, research results, and the value of cattle ranching.
From these meetings Florida agriculture coordinated a joint response and submitted an alternative rule language to the South Florida Water Management District’s Rule 40E-61 (Use of Works of the District within the Lake Okeechobee Basin) as a Lower Cost Regulatory Alternative (LCRA). The unified agricultural response, together with its strong message of the existing legislative authority given to the three coordinating agencies (FDACS, FDEP and SFWMD), resulted in the SFWMD revising the rule. Drawing from our input, the District published a revised rule that closely tracked the LCRA concept. By Opening Gates, we established relationships that go beyond this particular issue and Opened Minds of leaders to the value of sustainable ranching. We worked with the District to limit the adopting standards to those who elect to monitor water quality in lieu of implementing BMPs within the Northern Everglades. We also worked towards a solution tying companion monitoring standards to those already adopted by FDEP in its rules, avoiding a new District permitting program, including challenges for a representative quality monitoring network and water quality discharge targets.
This is just one example by opening our gates, we opened the door to other minds, a door that “WE” must never allow to shut. As stewards of the land, farmers and ranchers are in the minority of our population today. We are in the midst of one of the largest mass migration of our population into our beloved home state we have seen in years. What does this mean for us depends on whether we are a pessimistic or optimistic. I am an eternal optimist and believe in our future. Our future lies with how we leave it for the next generation and how our society perceives the value of Florida’s “LAND”.
This future depends on society understanding the complexities of our lands and waters and the state’s ability to stay green and open while producing the food we eat, harboring the wildlife we all care about, and protecting the water supply, the natural resource that sustain all life.
How?We start by recognizing that cattle ranching is nothing like it used to be, what was is gone and, most importantly, what will be is what we are willing to make it be. My riddle is “WE” can make a better tomorrow, our future, by analyzing and thinking of our land and water as a living breathing balance system. And our system is interconnected and any one thing out of balance causes a disruption within that system. Looking at our state and its lands and waters we are at a tipping point and it is up to us to pull together as a society towards what is important to our lives—protecting our land and waters. If we stop and think as a society we all eat and everyone is involved in agriculture no matter what you eat. Knowing where your food comes from and the complexities involved in growing it needs to be continually brought to the forefront. Every day more and more people are recognizing this fact. This year our Legislature voted to recognize the Florida Wildlife Corridor as lands of significance for the future of our state.This recognition, not a regulatory program, recognizes that working lands, which make up many of the acres in this corridor making them significant not just for food production but also well as part of a great whole of Florida’s natural resources. I do not know about you but I love wide open space that link our lands together, the definition of a Corridor, just like many of the animals that use these wide open spaces to survive and move around just like us.
In closing, I thank you and appreciate this great opportunity I have had over this last year. It has been a great pleasure. Please be sure to read the continuation of Dr. Swain and Dr. Boughton “A Future for the Florida Cattle Industry: The Pressures from Within.” I greatly appreciate them and our whole Archbold team for their efforts this year.
Now myquestion to everyone. Are we going to ride off into the sunsetor are we looking forward to the rising sun each day to do what we do—sustaining and taking care of God’s waters , wildlife, and green earth?So let us get up, show up, participate, and never give up on the life style that is the backbone of our country.