Gov. Rick Scott has vetoed more than $6 million worth of University of Florida Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences projects that may curtail its ability and potential to deliver science-based solutions to Florida residents and the agriculture and natural resources industries.
Gene McAvoy, Hendry County Extension Director reports the following funding has been cut from the budget by Gov. Scott.
The vetoes include:
• Tropical Research & Education Center upgrades -- $750,000
• 4-H State Funding -- $1,000,000
• Florida Horticulture Research, Science, & Education -- $1,450,000
• Tropical Aquaculture Lab (TAL) -- $778,987
• FL Agriculture Initiative -- $125,000
• Bok Tower Educational Initiative -- $2,000,000
• Geomatics Education -- $636,120
The Governor vetoed funding for programs that have long been in the state budget. Except for the TREC proposal, these are recurring dollars that have supported faculty, staff and operations for years.
These vetoes will inflict immediate damage to the agricultural industry, says McAvoy. Overall these cuts will limit UF/IFAS’ ability to serve Florida residents and its agriculture and natural resources industries.
These budget cuts impact the ability to offer opportunities in the classroom, discover knowledge through innovative research and share those solutions with the public. They impact 35 existing faculty positions, staff funding support and program support.
Florida 4-H State Funding
The governor vetoed funding that supports numerous 4-H faculty, regional specialized agents and programming. This will ripple across a state where the program prepares more than 200,000 youth for high-tech, STEM careers.
4 H is delivered through land-grant universities by Cooperative Extension—a community of more than 100 public universities across the nation that provides experiences where young people learn by doing.
Florida has a vibrant program with more than 200,000 Florida youth in 4-H through UF/IFAS Extension. It involves 16,000 volunteers whose 650,000 hours of service equate to a $13.8 million economic impact annually.
The program educates children in all 67 counties and Seminole Tribe in STEM, citizenship/leadership, entrepreneurship, and healthy living to help them grow into contributing members of society and the workforce.
The loss of youth development faculty will translate into fewer traditional clubs, such as those in livestock, equine, veterinary science, biotechnology, raising and training animals, forestry, citizenship, and leadership. In addition, there will be fewer of the newer types of clubs that engage students in robotics, rocketry, computer science and electrical engineering. These clubs teach problem solving and creative and critical thinking, and they build excitement for engineering and technology.
Scott vetoed funding for the Center for Landscape Ecology and Conservation, a direct hit to Florida’s ornamental plant industry, which relies on science from the center that it cannot get at such a great value from any other source.
The CLCE has a primary objective to save water in the landscape and provide information on water quality issues associated with landscapes through research and Extension efforts. Strong partnerships with DEP, industry organizations, utilities, and governmental agencies provide a multi-prong approach to saving water and protecting water quality.
• The Green Industries-Best Management Practices program has trained 44,061 and certified 37,857 landscape professionals through nearly 1,600 classes in Florida.
• In 2015, an estimated 187,586,461 gallons of water was saved in Florida through a direct impact from the center’s major Extension programs. This is enough water to supply the annual indoor water needs of nearly 3,000 homes.
• More than 4,500 Florida Master Gardener volunteers in 60 Florida Counties donated $9.3 million in volunteer time in areas of horticulture and water conservation education. The Florida Master Gardener Program trained 660 new volunteers in 2016.
It also threatens the Center for Public Issues Education that provides valuable research and professional development for agriculture and natural resources industries across the state supporting their competitiveness and contributing to the state’s economy.
Tropical Aquaculture Laboratory:
This veto eliminates most funding for the TAL in Ruskin. It is the only research and development support for an industry with an annual farm gate value of $27 million and that employs thousands of people. Florida accounts for 95 percent of U.S. production of aquarium fish.
The UF/IFAS Tropical Aquaculture Laboratory (TAL), provides research, Extension, education, and graduate student education focused on the state’s unique tropical fish industry. Tropical fish account for the largest segment of Florida’s aquaculture industry.
The aquaculture industry has the highest per-acre value and the highest economic multiplier factor of any agricultural commodity.
Program focus areas include new species development, non-native aquatic species management, aquatic animal disease diagnostics, restoration aquaculture, management of aquatic materials application, and general production management. Working closely with industry, state, and federal agencies, the TAL provides science-based information used to make management and regulatory decisions.
The TAL has a full-service disease diagnostic lab that provides treatment and prevention recommendations, trains students and conducts educational programs.
Yet another veto gut the geomatics education program. There is a critical shortage of professionals who can gather, analyze and interpret mapping and surveying data. More than half of graduates with this kind of education own their own companies. And they stay in Florida and contribute to our economy.
Established in 1973 at the University of Florida at the behest of the surveying profession in Florida, the geomatics program is the only full-service geomatics program in the southeast United States, and it is viewed as a program of regional, national, and international impact. The program has developed national recognition through its research program, faculty publications, and faculty participation at national meetings.
Geomatics/surveying has had a critical shortage of professionals for at least a decade. In order to meet the increasing demand for professionals, the UF/IFAS Geomatics Education initiative expanded the existing bachelor’s program for statewide delivery and developed an online geomatics certificate as a route to licensure for individuals holding bachelor’s degrees in other disciplines.
Florida Ag Initiative
Vetoed funding for the Florida Agriculture Initiative will mean fewer high school students engaged in agriculture and natural resources studies for an industry with a critical deficit in the numbers of university students entering its professions.
The Florida Youth Institute uses the Florida Agriculture Initiative funding to inform and inspire high school students to consider careers in agriculture and natural resources. The Florida Youth Institute in Agriculture and Natural Resources (FYI) is a centerpiece of this effort. It’s a week-long residential immersion program for rising 11th and 12th graders from across the state. The mission of FYI is to engage youth with faculty, graduate students, undergraduates, and professionals in current agricultural and natural resource issues and areas of interest that match industry needs.
Bok Tower Educational Initiative
Also affected is the mission of the UF/IFAS Extension and Bok Tower Gardens Partnership to enrich communities through experiential education that promotes a connection to nature and healthy living. The partnership works to improve community health across Polk County and the Central and South Florida region by mitigating health risk factors and fostering a sense of community and civic responsibility through hands-on learning for youth and adults. The work of the partnership couples the research-based expertise of the University of Florida and Extension’s intentional outreach of educational and conservation programs, along with world-class facilities and natural settings, at Bok Tower Gardens.