Florida Cattlemen and Cattlewomen, I hope everyone’s New Year has started with a bang and is moving in the right direction.
FCA’s BMP’s Committee has been working hard with FDACS/BMP Stakeholder Committee to move forward and make sure that all practices being written will improve water quality while at the same time not put us out of business. As ranchers we have always been stewards of the land that we are blessed to manage. If Florida Ranchers are pushed out of business because of implementation of BMP’s, then what have we really done? The last crop which is concrete, and asphalt will have the greatest impact on Florida’s water quality and environment. We need to keep ranches/ranchers profitable, so we will continue to work and watch over as the BMP’s are being revised.
In early January I was able to drive to Quail Creek in Okeechobee. I was able to spend the day with the Florida Cattlewomen at their Sporting Clay Shoot annual fundraiser. I spent the day riding around in a golf cart, handing out water and beef jerky and did a lot of visiting with Cattlewomen and participants. Following the shooting competition, we enjoyed a great lunch. Thank you; Sarah Childs, Holly Newsome, and Barbara Curts for allowing me to ride around with you and be a part of this major event.
Next, we had our Legislative Quarterly meeting in Tallahassee. We had a nice crowd, and we made a big impact lobbying on our issues and interacting with our legislators this year. We started out with a fundraiser event on Tuesday for Governor Desantis. It was done in conjunction with the Florida Restaurant and Lodging Association and held and Walt and Carol Dover’s Farm just northwest of Tallahassee. Our Florida Cow PAC delivered a check with 12-15 cowboy hats present on FCA’s behalf. We then had just enough time to conduct our FCA Executive Committee meeting before supper. In addition to the Executive Committee, our group was joined by members of the United Dairy Farmers of Florida as well as the Florida Cattlemen’s Leadership Academy Class VIII participants and Dr. Scot Angle UF/IFAS Vice President and Mary Ann Hooks their director of legislative affairs.
Early Wednesday morning all members of the Association met at the Holiday Inn for a briefing on Legislative issues. Unfortunately, our FCA Director of Governmental Affairs Sam Ard was out sick with COVID, and we certainly missed his guidance and counsel. In his place a combination of FCA staff and Ray Hodge, with the United Dairy Farmers of Florida briefed everyone on the lobbying process, the events of the day and details of the issues of concern for our industry.
We also heard an update from Mary Ann Hooks with UF/IFAS offer a description on the four primary priorities they are working on this session. Our group received an update from State Veterinarian, Dr. Mike Short regarding the FDACS Division of Animal Industry legislative ask and budget request for this session.
We then loaded up in a bus and vans and went to the Capitol where we spent the day meeting with our legislators. We had some excellent meetings with members of both the House and Senate and every office was visited by someone representing the Florida cattle industry.
We concluded an enjoyable day of lobbying with a reception at the Southern Group’s office hosting a large number of our elected officials and their staff. Everyone had a chance to enjoy a few snacks and visit with legislators one on one as they stopped by to see our FCA Members.
Talking about lobbying, over the last couple of years FCA and our Florida Cow PAC have been working to step up our lobbying activities. Our objective is for our industry to attend as many political events as possible. We have worked extremely hard to raise funds through our annual PAC Bull Sale where we have generous bull donors contribute credits and bulls to sell as well as a few other items, which are all auctioned off in a live auction, held on Wednesday evening night after dinner at our FCA Annual Convention.
Typically, with this auction, we raise $100,000-$120,000 to use in supporting campaigns of candidates we anticipate working with as they take their respective office. In the world today, helping like- minded folks get elected will continue to help us as we work to influence policies that we hope will maintain a business climate in which our Ranching Operations can remain profitable.
Over the last nine months we have worked hard to keep Cattlemen’s faces in front and center of all of the different campaigns that are happening around our state. We want to make sure that each of our elected officials know and can understand what Florida ranchers do in managing our ranchlands and how we take care of these places and the environment as a whole. There is no better way than to invite and open our ranch gates to educate our elected officials on our industry and science-based practices. We all know with a state that is growing in human population like Florida, our ranches are a major part of the solution to environmental challenges, by cleaning and storing water, cleaning Florida’s air, protecting wildlife, and maintaining native habitat.
I mention our fund -raising effort in this column because I want to point out that at the present time only a small portion of our members help us to raise funds for the Florida Cow PAC. I want to say Thank You to the many great seedstock operations that donate the Bulls being sold and encourage you to support these fine producers that are support our Florida Industry.
I think about how large our Florida Cow PAC could be if every one of our 3600 members could help in some way. Our Cow Pac could become the strongest PAC in the State. I want to encourage each member and County Association to think “Outside of the Box” to come up with items that could be sold, or some type of “pass the hat” fundraiser at the County Level to support the Florida Cow PAC, Big or Small, every single dollar counts.
On another note, we also work to gather funds for the NCBA PAC by finding; Turkey hunts, Fishing Charters (redfish, tarpon, scalloping), vacation places, and even airboat rides/python hunts. If you have something like this, which folks from other states never get to do, and are willing to donate please contact staff. I remind you all these PAC funds will be contributed to candidates’ campaigns at the State or National level PAC with oversight by the Florida Cattlemen’s Association. Please reach out and let us know if you would like to help out.
The Florida Cattlemen’s Association has been continually active in supporting the NCBA PAC and with a delegation of 27 members of the US House of Representatives and two US Senator we have a lot of races to be engaged with. During the NCBA Board meeting last month in Houston, TX., the Florida Cattlemen’s Association received recognition and an award as the state affiliate with the most growth in NCBA PAC revenue raised in the last year.
Let’s continue to ride together and have the strongest PAC in Florida and continue to be leaders with our National Association, The NCBA.