Search - JEvents
Search - Categories
Search - Contacts
Search - Content
Search - News Feeds
Search - Web Links
Search - SunBay
Search - JComments


Thursday, 26 September 2019 05:14

Letters to the Editor

Ann Coulter’s recent column, “”We don’t trust you”…says it all!

What a great column, except for 1 paragraph, as an OP-ED columnist, I envy her writing skills and eloquence. We, the Conservative Branch of government, need her and people like her.

I wish she would reconcile her differences with the President.

From that 1 paragraph I believe her differences are of a personal nature rather than based on the President’s ability to run the largest corporation in the world…the US of A!

This President is NOT a politically correct , polished politician.

There are two types of people, leaders and followers. Those who follow, like Schumer, Pelosi,…and all other Democraps, care what people think about their decisions…those who lead, don’t. Leaders make decisions based upon their integrity, oaths, experience and ability.

Having turned around everything Barack Hussein did in 8 long years, trying to destroy America… Trump? It only took him a short 2 years, to restore America, what no other person could have accomplished.

I’d rather Trump have my back, any day, than anybody Democrap!

J Gary DiLaura,
The Right Side

Thursday, 26 September 2019 05:09

To the Editor

What a great actress that Gretta is!!! Wonder how many times she practiced that?

Strange though. Instead of going to India or China who produce the vast majority of the world's pollution she chose to come to the United States... Interesting. How about lecturing those countries first LMAO

Anthony Markhamm

Combined, the total debt of the 50 state governments in the U.S. was $1.5 trillion in fiscal year 2018, according to Truth In Accounting’s (TIA) 2019 Financial State of the States report.

It is the tenth in a decade of reports analyzing states’ budgeting, reporting, and fiscal health using the same methodology.

The good news is that due to a prosperous economy, total debt among the 50 states decreased by $62.6 billion in fiscal year 2018, excluding debt related to capital assets.


Despite this, the average taxpayer burden across all 50 states to cover the debt was $8,400, and 40 state governments were unable to pay their bills.

Nine state governments accumulated debt to the point where the taxpayer burden exceeds $20,000, according to the analysis.

TIA calculates the taxpayer burden according to the amount of money each taxpayer would have to pay for the state to pay all of its existing debt. A taxpayer surplus is the amount of money left over after all of a state’s bills are paid, divided by the estimated number of taxpayers in the state.

TIA labels states that can’t pay their bills as Sinkhole States and those who can as Sunshine States.

Top Sunshine States, with the lowest taxpayer burden, are Alaska, North Dakota, Wyoming, Utah and Idaho.

Sinkhole States are New Jersey, Illinois, Connecticut, Massachusetts and Hawaii.

In order to balance the budget, required by law in 49 states, “elected officials have not included the true costs of the government in their budget calculations and have pushed costs onto future taxpayers,” the report states. Unfunded retirement and healthcare obligations represent real expenses that fall on taxpayers, causing the greatest amount of debt, the report adds.


TIA implemented a grading system for the states to better explain their actual financial situation. Three states received A’s, seven received B’s, 13 received C’s, 18 received D’s, and nine states received failing grades.

The worst states with the highest taxpayer burden and worst fiscal health all earned F grades. They include New Jersey, with the highest taxpayer burden of $65,100, followed by Illinois with a $52,600 taxpayer burden, Connecticut with $51,800, Massachusetts and Hawaii both carrying a $31,200 taxpayer burden, Delaware with $27,100, Kentucky with $25,700, California with $21,800, and New York with $20,500.

“This crisis has been years in the making and demands political courage on the part of voters and elected officials to return to the path of sustainability,” Sheila Weinberg, founder and CEO of TIA, said.

One of the ways states appear to balance their budgets is that officials “shortchange” public pension and OPEB funds, resulting in a $824 billion shortfall in pension funds and a $664.6 billion shortfall in OPEB funds, TIA said.

“Many but not all states are in bad shape. States like Utah, Tennessee, Nebraska and, among the larger states, North Carolina – they have good lessons to offer other states,” Bill Bergman, TIA director of research, told The Center Square.

“For the states in bad shape, state legislatures, governors, judges and government employees probably shouldn't rely on federal government assistance, even if things like the government's response to the financial crisis of 2008-2009 or growing calls for federal assistance for the Pension Benefit Guaranty Corporation suggest they should,” Bergman adds. “Our federal government is arguably in worse financial condition than even the worst states (New Jersey, Illinois, and Connecticut), despite, or perhaps because of, the fact that the federal government thinks it can print money.”

Founded in 2002, Truth in Accounting is dedicated to educating and empowering citizens with understandable, reliable, and transparent government financial information. This year's report is the tenth in a decade of TIA \ analyzing states’ budgeting, reporting, and fiscal health using the same methodology.


“Providing accurate and timely information to citizens and the media is an essential part of government responsibility and accountability,” TIA states. “The lack of transparency in financial information, state budgets, and financial reports makes it difficult for governments to meet this democratic responsibility.”


The Center Square

Thursday, 26 September 2019 04:55

Health Care’s Big Global Climate Footprint

If the global health care sector were a country, it would be the fifth-largest greenhouse gas emitter on the planet, according to a new report by Health Care Without Harm in collaboration with Arup, which provides engineering, design, and project management for the built environment.

Overall, health care emissions are equivalent to the annual greenhouse gases produced by 514 coal-fired power plants, finds the report, titled, “Health Care’s Climate Footprint.”

Establishing the first-ever estimate of health care’s global climate footprint, the report finds the health care footprint to be equivalent to 4.4 percent of global net emissions (two gigatons of carbon dioxide equivalent).

Fossil fuel combustion makes up well over half of health care’s global climate footprint.

The report, released simultaneously at events in London and Medellin, Colombia on September 10, makes the case for a transformation of the health care sector that aligns it with the Paris Agreement goal of limiting climate change to 1.5 degrees Celsius.

“Not only are doctors, nurses and health facilities all first responders to the impacts of climate change, but hospitals and health care systems paradoxically make a major contribution to the climate crisis,” says co-author Josh Karliner, international director of program and strategy for Health Care Without Harm.

“The health sector needs to transition to clean, renewable energy and deploy other primary prevention strategies to achieve net zero greenhouse gas emissions by 2050. Health care has to step up and do its part to avoid catastrophic climate change, which would be devastating to human health worldwide,” said Karliner.

Held at the Wellcome Trust, the London launch event included a high-level panel moderated by Howard Frumkin, head of Our Planet Our Health at the Wellcome Trust.

Panelists included Mandeep Daliwhal, director of the UN Development Programme’s HIV, Health, and Development Group, as well as representatives from the World Health Organization, WHO, the National Health Service, Health Care Without Harm, and Arup.

The report was also showcased at the Climate and Health Conference in Medellin, Columbia, which featured Health Care Without Harm, city officials, the provincial government of Antioquia, Antioquia University and WHO’s Pan American Health Organization.

Hospitals, health systems and their supply chains in the United States, China, and the European Union, make up more than half of health care’s worldwide emissions. And while differing in scale, every nation’s health sector directly and indirectly releases greenhouse gases as it delivers care.

“Health sector facilities are the operational heart of service delivery, protecting health, treating patients, and saving lives. Yet health sector facilities are also a source of carbon emissions, contributing to climate change. Places of healing should be leading the way, not contributing to the burden of disease,” says Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, director general of the World Health Organization.

The report calls for a global roadmap for climate-smart health care in order to reduce emissions, while meeting goals such as universal health coverage. The report also outlines immediate actions that stakeholders from across the health sector could take.

First, individual hospitals and independent health systems should follow the example of thousands of hospitals already moving toward climate-smart healthcare via Health Care Without Harm’s Health Care Climate Challenge and other initiatives.

Also, national and subnational governments should build on existing initiatives to establish action plans to decarbonize their health systems, foster resilience, and improve health outcomes.
Finally, bilateral aid agencies, multilateral development banks, other health funding agencies and philanthropies should integrate climate-smart principles and strategies into their health aid, lending, and policy guidance for developing countries.

The report concludes that health promotion, disease prevention, universal health coverage, and the global climate goal of net zero emissions must become intertwined.

“The health sector must become climate-smart,” says Gary Cohen, founder of Health Care Without Harm. “Both climate justice and health equity depend on it.”

Health Care Without Harm works to transform the health sector worldwide, without compromising patient safety or care, so that it becomes ecologically sustainable and a leading advocate for environmental health and justice. For more information about this report, visit

© Environment News Service (ENS) 2019. All rights reserved.

Thursday, 26 September 2019 04:51

A Passing Storm or Coming Shipwreck?

The always-amiable Father Andrew Gilligan, who for many years taught Latin at St. Ignatius High School in San Francisco, wanted his students to remember some of the great passages from Virgil's "The Aeneid" long after they had forgotten the arcane rules of Latin grammar. So, he gave us some to memorize.

One was: "Forsan et haec olim meminisse juvabit." His colloquial translation of this was: "Someday you may look back on even these things and laugh." That is what Aeneas told his men after they sailed through a horrendous storm.

They had escaped from Troy after the Greeks captured it. But they were destined to lay the foundation of the Roman Empire in Italy. The vengeful goddess Juno, seeking to stop them, ordered Aeolus, the god of the winds, to hit them as hard as he could. Neptune, the god of the sea, stopped the storm and spared Aeneas -- and, according to Virgil's story, the future of Rome.

This line from Virgil occurred to me aboard a cruise ship, as we peacefully sailed from a port near Rome, past Sicily, toward Greece and Turkey -- heading in exactly the opposite direction as Aeneas. The seas were calm. The skies were blue. It was hard to imagine what Aeneas went through.

As pantheistic as "The Aeneid" is, Virgil wrote it only decades before the birth of Christ -- the same century during which another great Roman, Cicero, wrote his "Treatise on the Commonwealth," which has been quoted in this column.

"There is a true law, a right reason, conformable to nature, universal, unchangeable, eternal, whose commands urge us to duty, and whose prohibitions restrain us from evil," Cicero wrote. "Whether it enjoins or forbids, the good respect its injunctions, and the wicked treat them with indifference. This law cannot be contradicted by any other law and is not liable either to derogation or abrogation."

"Neither the senate nor the people can give us any dispensation for not obeying this universal law of justice," Cicero said. "It is not one thing at Rome and another at Athens; one thing today and another tomorrow; but in all times and nations this universal law must forever reign, eternal and imperishable," he wrote.

"It is the sovereign master and emperor of all beings," said Cicero. "God himself is its author, its promulgator, its enforcer. He who obeys it not, flies from himself, and does violence to the very nature of man."

As these lines demonstrate, Cicero was not a pantheist. He wrote of one God, whose universal law applied to all human beings in all times and all places.

In Rome, the ruins of the Colosseum, built in the first century after the birth of Christ, are within walking distance of St. Peter's Basilica, whose dome was designed by Michelangelo in the 16th century and whose piazza was designed by Bernini in the 17th century.

The interior of the Colosseum may have witnessed hideous things, but its classical beauty is rooted in the same immutable rules of harmony and proportion that guided the designs of the Renaissance.

A little more than a century after Bernini designed the Piazza San Pietro, our Founding Fathers declared the United States an independent nation, appealing as they did so to "the Laws of Nature and Nature's God" and stating that all men "are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights."

Thomas Jefferson later described the Declaration of Independence as "an expression of the American mind" and cited the writings of Cicero as one of its inspirations.

That new nation, which embraced the immutable principles articulated by Cicero, soon built a beautiful capital city, whose major structures, such as the Capitol and the White House, reflected the same basic architectural principles as classical -- and Renaissance -- Rome.

Based on that same principle Cicero articulated two thousand years ago, America became the freest and greatest nation on Earth.

In 1969, two American astronauts, Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin, planted our flag on the moon -- a profoundly symbolic moment for a nation that had reached higher than any other both morally and physically. Since Apollo 17 in 1972, we have not returned to the moon.

But we have aborted many millions of babies, declared it a "right" for two people of the same sex to marry and begun a national debate about whether a young man can declare himself a young woman and begin using the ladies' room.

At the same time, our federal government has run up a debt of more than $22 trillion.

The advice Aeneas gave to his men in the wake of that fictional storm that Virgil put into verse more than two thousand years ago could never be applied to the cultural challenge America faces today.

We will never look back on these conflicts with any sort of mirth. But, hopefully, someday soon we will look back and know that we not only weathered the storm but also turned the ship back in the right direction.

small smiley face with sunglasses1

Thursday, 26 September 2019 04:37

Op Ed: Never Forget... Really?

"This month, It's was 18th anniversary of 9/11, and every 9/11, someone says 'we will never forget.'

These words...... like the words “unicorn” or “free health care” or “Islamophobia,” are nonsense words: Words that describe things ..... that simply don't exist.

We always forget; we have to forget. It's the way societies move forward, and it's the way they die, and these things have to be. It's God's will.

Here are some of the things we learned on 9/11 that we've forgotten:

Multiculturalism is crap.
There are better cultures, bad cultures, and even worse cultures.

Ours is better not because we're better people, but because we've inherited better ideas like individual freedom and equality before the law.

Those are better ideas than government by Allah, and dressing up women like the Spirit of Christmas Yet To Come so they can't fully participate in life.

Better ideas make better cultures, and better cultures must be defended by both wisdom and force of arms — or worse cultures will conquer and destroy them.

On 9/11, we also remembered briefly that men must be men. The policemen and firemen who charged into the burning buildings to try to save people were essential men, necessary men — men worthy of our honor and respect because they lived up to the responsibility of their manhood, which reminds us of another inescapable truth....

There is only one necessary task of human life, and that is to make and nurture more human life. This is a task that nature has assigned to women. It is in order to protect and preserve that task, and the women who do it, that men must be men. Brave, protective, supportive, and dispassionately wise.

When societies feel rich and safe and prosperous, they put such truths out of their minds and they turn to fluffy nonsense like “irony” or “pumpkin latte” or “redefining marriage” or letting boys dress up as girls or promising everybody everything for free.

The essential divide between conservatives and leftists is that conservatives want society to always live under the restraints of the essential truths. Leftists want to take advantage of history's little holidays when some nation like ours becomes strong enough and rich enough to make everyone feel like it's safe to forget the rules and party.

There's some wisdom on both sides.

If your society is so powerful it can spare a few men to do inessential tasks like writing books or musical comedies, that's better than everyone having to man the front lines. If you can allow some women to leave off baby-making and child-rearing, maybe some of them will enjoy doing something else more. That's fine. It's tolerant and kind to accept gay relationships if you're living in inessential times, so why not do it.

But the gods of the copy-book headings, the gods of the essential truths, are always waiting to return with terror and slaughter as they did [on 9-11] 18 years ago.

And when you denounce motherhood or manhood, when you squander your resources and disrespect your traditions, those gods start sharpening their swords.

This is a very sad world, and one of the saddest things about this world is also one of the most comical: People lie. Everyone lies, everyone lies to himself and to everyone else.
We say things that are absurd and ridiculous and then we insist that they're true. People lie when they can, and only face the truth when they must.

On 9/11, we were forced to face the truth — a lot of truths — and now, by the necessity of human nature, we have forgotten.

We always do.

Enjoy your pumpkin Latte"

Andrew Klavan

Andrew Kavan Show

Following in her father's footsteps, Emily Stith has made a career out of putting small holes in bull's-eyes from a significant distance. And she's doing it while serving her country as a soldier in the Army.

What made you want to become a shooter? Or what happened that led to you becoming a shooter?

My dad was on the Navy Match Grade Team, and one of his teammates, Bruce Girkin, knew about a junior team in Kitsap, Washington. It was every Saturday shooting small bore and I was in love. I got a cold every weekend but I still felt the need to go. Eventually, I was shooting everyday at different ranges and shooting matches on the weekends.

What's it like being recruited by the Army to shoot vs. a university?

I was recruited by both, but I'd have to say the main difference is that everything happens at the pace you need for the Army, as far as shipping out. The Army felt more like home as well, everything they talked about I had some kind of knowledge about because of the huge military influence already in my life.

PATRIOT1 small

What kind of training and practicing does it truly take to compete at your level and be an Olympian?

At least several hours of shooting a day, then some kind of cardio, mental training — whether it be visualization or any mental hurdles you need to overcome — and knowledge about nutrition. It's a 24/7 job. Always do something productive for you and your career, something in regards to what I just mentioned. Of course, letting loose is a big thing — work hard, play hard, but being smart about how it will affect your career.

How would you encourage other women to do something like this as a competitor and maybe a soldier?

If you're just getting started, know that this is such a huge sport. So many different systems you could shoot, and if you don't like one, you might like another. If you're already shooting, don't stop till you've done what you dream of, all you've set out to do. Sometimes you won't have the motivation to go out and shoot every day or work out, but that's when you need the dedication. The dedication to your dreams and goals and once you've achieved the top of that is when you see the dedication pay off.
For a soldier, I'm 5-foot-nothing and had never been in a sport in high school — I was lifting my senior year but that's not a whole lot. If I can go through basic and [Advanced Individual Training], there's nothing stopping you from at least trying. See if you can get in, if you can, do something for the better of most and serve this beautiful country because that in itself is something so extraordinary and rewarding.

What is your favorite hobby outside of shooting?

I enjoy camping, hiking and traveling. I just enjoy being outside all over God's creation.

What is the most rewarding part of your job?

The most rewarding part of my job is proving to myself I can do what I set my mind to. Putting in the hours every day, traveling to matches and showcasing what I've worked for, representing Team USA, and now the Army, and showing others [that] not only America is a force to be reckoned with, but so is the Army and so am I.

Do you have to do anything different to be successful because you are so young?

All of the senior [personnel] in the office already have specific things [that] they know do and don't work for them. As for me, I'm still trying to sort out so many things so I have my own style of shooting — [my] approach to the [target] when I'm looking through the sights, workout habits, nutrition on and off the range, etc.
Also, I'm straight out of high school, so there were a lot of learning curves when I got here I had to work around — and still do. All first-time things. Buying a vehicle, insurance, getting my license, having my first job, time management, keeping military bearing in check, and the list goes on. Just trying to figure everything out, and thank God I've got the support system through family, friends and my team to help me navigate it all.

Located on Florida's Gulf Coast, the Fort Myers Beach area offers its own great beaches as well as being surrounded by barrier and coastal islands to explore. The Working Waterfront Tour is a must do when visiting Southwest Florida. The shrimp fleet of San Carlos Island offloads more Florida pinks than anywhere else in Florida, says a 1999 study by the University of Florida.

Pink Shrimp to Fort Myers Beach is like Alaska King Crab to Alaska. While you won't find Shrimp Boats in the Deadliest Catch you can get up close and personal to our local Shrimping Industry with the Ostego Bay Foundation Marine Science Center's Working Waterfront Three-Hour Guided Tour. Offered every Wednesday from 9 a.m. until noon, weather permitting beginning October 2nd.

The Ostego Bay Foundation has earned the 2019 Trip Advisor’s Certificate of Excellence from the many accolades of the Working Waterfront Tour. The cost for the Tour is only $20.00 per adult and $10.00 for children over 6 years of age. You'll learn about Florida's "Pink Gold" the oldest and largest pink shrimp fishing fleet in Florida. The tour includes a 1 1/2 hour guided visit at the Marine Science Center Museum which contains numerous hands-on exhibits, touch tank, beach exhibit and estuarine aquariums.

The Tour continues with a walking tour of the commercial fishing industry working waterfront, including Erickson & Jensen Supply House, net shop and Trico Shrimp Boat loading dock. See how the boats are unloaded, the trawl doors are built, the shrimp nets are hand-sewn, the seafood is off-loaded, and other important factors used in this unique multi-million dollar industry; a memorable experience! Bring your camera.

Advance reservations are required, call 239-765-8101 for details or register online at

Founded in 1991, the Ostego Bay Foundation Marine Science Center is a self-funded 501(c)(3) nonprofit educational organization.

The mission of the Ostego Bay Foundation, Inc. is to promote the understanding, preservation and enhancement of our unique marine environment through education, research and community involvement. The Foundation provides interactive educational experiences to encourage stewardship of our natural resources.

smiley face small with sunglasses1

Wednesday, 25 September 2019 21:14

No Time To Cry For Ailing Springs




Last Saturday, the Florida Springs Institute (FSI) and Kings of the Springs (KOTS) environmental non-profits came together to host a Springs Outing on the Chassahowitzka River in southern Citrus County. Chassahowitzka springs are christened with names like Seven Sisters, Crab Creek, Potter, the Crack, Betteejay, and more. The “Chaz”, as regulars and locals call it, is a little-known but locally popular hangout on hot summer days. With its rope swings, wildlife, and swim-through caves it’s no wonder this spring system has become such a beloved hangout spot, for locals and visitors alike.

Our group was led by Tom Morris, springs biologist and cave diver, featured in the PBS documentary series Water’s Journey, and by Tessa Skiles, daughter of the legendary Wes Skiles who conceived and produced the four Water’s Journey films and created dozens of other important educational resources about the caves and narrow passages that comprise the Floridan Aquifer and its springs. Tessa is the Outreach Director of the Florida Springs Institute and is a passionate outdoors woman and photo/videographer in her own right. She shares her father’s passion for protecting the aquifer, springs, and rivers of Florida. Brent Fannin and David Cobiella, founders of KOTS, and many of their supporters rounded out our group of close to 30 paddleboarders, kayakers, and canoeists.

Our group ranged in age from a 15-year old high school junior, through young professionals, and a few older folks approaching retirement. Most were new to the Chassahowitzka and witnessing their enthusiasm and passion was an invigorating experience for me. Their smiles, laughter, and physical prowess above, on, and under the water warmed my jaded heart.

Although I started the day bemoaning the sad condition of our beloved springs, I was re-infected by their deep passion for what is left to save and cherish. Where I was contemplating writing another springs opinion piece about what we have already lost, my spirits were uplifted and refocused on the unfinished job ahead.

Added to this heartwarming display of humanity’s best instincts, was a story relayed to me by one of the paddlers. This friend had recently been backpacking in the North Carolina Smokey Mountains, and on a remote mountain-top bald, was engaged by a group of Florida day hikers who commented on his Ichetucknee Springs Alliance hat. Queried by the strangers about the condition of the Ichetucknee and other Florida springs, my friend answered the group’s questions by describing the good and the bad. Their conversation eventually turned to the role of politics in springs protection, and one of the strangers identified himself as the former speaker of the Florida house and a Republican. This former legislator assured my friend that the current pro-business-at-any-cost Florida government would eventually come back around to supporting the irreplaceable jewels of our state - healthy springs, rivers, and estuaries.

My morning depression was in part due to a first-hand account I had received about Fanning and Manatee Springs. At Manatee Springs and Catfish Hotel, experienced divers found turbidity so extreme that visibility was reduced to less than six feet and the water emitting from the spring was described as “murky”. Compared to the crystalline clear blue, lushly vegetated Manatee Springs I have known in years past, this spring is best described as dying or dead.

At Fanning Springs, they found blue, clear water and a sandy bottom. Unlike the lost clarity at Manatee Springs, the high nitrate nitrogen levels polluting Fanning Springs are invisible.

Although Fanning has filamentous algae and has lost its former submerged aquatic plants, recent high rainfall has recharged local aquifer levels enough to create a higher flow of clear water.

My friends had Fanning Springs to themselves and thoroughly enjoyed their snorkeling experience in this equally-impaired water body.

Such was the case this past Saturday for our entourage who visited the Chaz. The various springs did not appear healthy, yet they continue to be a magnet for thousands of people who cherish time outdoors. My fellow springs hoppers and I took home memories we will share with our friends and cherish into the future. We all experienced the Real Florida® that we want to preserve for our kids and grandkids. I just hope that all springs visitors realize, as I do, that our responsibility as Florida citizens and thoughtful voters is to insure a bright future for our natural environment.

Robert Knight
Executive Director
of the Howard T. Odum
Florida Springs Institute
in High Springs.

Wednesday, 25 September 2019 21:10

Hemp Will Be A 2020 Cash Crop In Florida

The Florida Department of Agriculture expects to receive 8,000 applications by December and issue 3,000 cultivation permits early next year when the state rolls out its new industrial hemp program.

Some officials estimate the crop could eventually spawn a $30 billion annual industry in the Sunshine State but, as the Senate Agriculture Committee learned Tuesday, the rosy prospectus comes with thorns.

While 37 states have authorized industrial hemp programs in the two years since the crop was legalized under the federal 2018 Farm Bill, all await approval and guidance from the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA).

Yet, according to, there are already more than 400,000 acres producing hemp in 34 states under the 2014 Farm Bill’s pilot program, outpacing processing capacity and market development. As a result, the new domestic commodity’s price has been falling since May.

Nevertheless, State Director of Cannabis Holly Bell told lawmakers, “homegrown” hemp will be a “several million dollar industry that will become hundreds of millions in the next two years.”
Bell said Colorado, Vermont, New York, Kentucky and Tennessee are among states that have given farmers the green light to grow hemp after submitting plans to the USDA months ago without any federal interference.

Florida will do as well in early 2020, Bell said, although she expects USDA guidance before year’s end.

“Everybody else is doing it,” she said. The USDA has “not intervened and stopped any state. By December, if everything goes well, our team is ready to issue permits.”

Bell, hired in February by Agriculture Commissioner Nikki Fried as the state’s first cannabis czar after helping Tennessee establish its hemp industry during two decades of developing marijuana industries, said Florida’s program will include a workforce component and an automated permit process.

Without the USDA’s approval of the state’s program, however, Agriculture Committee Chairman Sen. Ben Albritton, R-Bartow, a Central Florida farmer, said many farmers who may be interested in adding hemp to their crop mix, – like himself – will be hesitant to do so until the feds sign off.

Sen. Bill Montford, D-Tallahassee, said hemp could be help the Panhandle recover from 2018’s Hurricane Michael.

In a February hearing before the Senate Agriculture Committee on Senate Bill 1020 – the 2019 bill lawmakers approved to create the state’s hemp program – University of Florida North Florida Research & Education Center Director Glen Aiken recommended hemp and hops as alternative crops for Panhandle farmers recovering from October’s Category 5 storm.

Aiken said there is increasing demand for hemp, which can be used for high-quality fibers and ropes, clothing, even as food.

“I know of an entrepreneur in Kentucky that processes hemp sausage,” he said. “It’s hemp and pork combined. I had some. It’s not the best sausage I’ve ever ate, but it wasn’t too bad either.”

During Tuesday’s pre-session committee primer, agricultural scientists from the University of Florida and FAMU gave presentations of hemp’s prospects in the Sunshine State.

UF Director Dr. Robert Gilbert feared growers could “get ahead of the science” on hemp and said there will be an “emerging crops” summit sometime soon.

Creating a state industrial hemp program has been a priority for Fried since she assumed office in January after being the only Democrat elected to a statewide office in November.

“It’s going to cause an industrial revolution in our state and across the country,” she said in support of SB 1020, noting hemp has as many as 35,000 different uses and its market as a cash crop is only getting brighter as it is considered as a biodegradable replacement for Styrofoam, plastic and paper.

SB 1020, sponsored by Sen. Rob Bradley, R-Fleming Island, was adopted by the House in a 112-1 vote and by the Senate in a 39-0 tally.

John Haughey
The Center Square