Tuesday, Florida Agriculture Commissioner Nikki Fried, an independently-elected member of the Florida Cabinet, hosted a press conference announcing the release of the FDACS Biden-Harris Administration Partnership Plan: Keeping Florida & America Growing, a state-federal partnership plan.
The plan outlines areas of future collaboration between the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services, The White House, and federal agencies including the U.S. Departments of Agriculture, Energy, and Commerce, the Environmental Protection Agency, the Food and Drug Administration, the Federal Trade Commission, and others.
The 30-page plan, developed by the FDACS Office of Federal Affairs and Office of Strategic Initiatives with input from the department’s 19 divisions, details various state and federal policies that would promote Florida’s farmers and American-grown crops, address climate change, improve water quality and conservation, modernize cannabis policy, advance renewable energy and energy efficiency, help children and families access nutrition and fight hunger, strengthen rural communities, protect consumers from fraud, expand voting rights, and improve diversity, equity, and inclusion across government and society.
“This historically difficult past year has exposed so many challenges for our state and nation, as well as opportunities for partnership with this new Administration,” said Commissioner Nikki Fried. “From promoting Florida-grown products and protecting consumers to increasing renewable energy and fighting chronic hunger, today’s federal partnership plan outlines nearly 40 policies and initiatives for increased state-federal collaboration. Our department and the State of Florida look forward to working closely with President Biden, Vice President Harris, and their Administration to benefit Florida’s farmers, consumers, and families.”
“My Senate District is one of the largest in Florida covering eleven of Florida’s 67 counties,” said State Senator Loranne Ausley (SD-3). “I appreciate Commissioner Fried’s innovative and aggressive approach to addressing food insecurity and climate change, and to a number of critical issues facing Senate District 3 including rural broadband deployment, continued support to timber farmers and others impacted by Hurricane Michael, payment for environmental services and cost-saving innovations in agricultural practices. I look forward to a strong state-federal partnership that will benefit all Floridians.”
“The issues we face in Florida are substantial. Food and economic insecurity, a deadly pandemic, climate destruction, and a centuries-long movement for true racial justice hang over our head. But with Commissioner Fried’s bold leadership and a new administration, I know we can meet this moment,” said State Senator Lori Berman (SD-31). “The Commissioner’s federal partnership plan, ‘Keeping Florida and America Growing,’ addresses just about every issue under the purview of the Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services, and outlines how the Biden Administration can help. This is the type of proactive government Floridians want and need.”
“As a member of the Senate Agriculture Committee, I find it inspiring that Commissioner Fried has a desire to help minorities become more engaged in an industry that has a history of blocking and excluding them from prospering,” said State Senator Perry Thurston (SD-33). “I am encouraged that we have a friend in the new Administration who is of the same mindset. This plan has the ability to provide not just access but opportunity for all communities.”
The first public plan from Florida’s state government shared with the Biden-Harris Administration, the document highlights nearly 40 areas of partnership, including:
TRADE AND INNOVATION: Commissioner Fried has been a vocal advocate for a level playing field for Florida agriculture, and asks the Administration to support the U.S. International Trade Commission’s actions and others to address unfair foreign trade practices, improve and expand crop insurance options, cover timber as a crop, and partner with FDACS on agricultural innovation research and public-private grant opportunities.
WATER: Home to thousands of lakes, tens of thousands of miles of waterways, and the Everglades, Florida’s waters face numerous challenges including development. Commissioner Fried asks the President to work with Congress to permanently ban oil drilling off Florida’s coasts, partner with the department’s Office of Agricultural Water Policy on water research and technologies, and provide agriculture producers with funding opportunities to improve water conservation.
CANNABIS: Commissioner Fried has been at the forefront of developing Florida’s hemp industry, already estimated at $370 million in its first year, is a noted advocate for legal access to cannabis, and asks the President to expand the USDA hemp crop insurance pilot program to Florida, establish FDA regulatory certainty for CBD, and work with Congress to federally legalize marijuana for adult use.
ENERGY AND CLIMATE: No state in America is as vulnerable to climate change as Florida, which uses more residential energy than 49 other states. Commissioner Fried applauds the President reentering the United States into the Paris climate agreement, and asks the Administration to support expanding the FDACS Office of Energy’s Electric Vehicle (EV) Roadmap, allocate block grants to address energy efficiency equity, establish farm energy and water programs modeled after FDACS’ successful Farm Renewable Energy Demonstration Program, and identify federal and state-owned lands ideal for carbon sequestration.
FOOD AND NUTRITION: Nearly one in five Floridians face food insecurity, exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic. Increasing access to healthy nutrition for Florida’s children, families, and seniors has been a top priority for Commissioner Fried, who asks the Administration to make permanent online SNAP purchasing, Farm to Food Bank, and Summer EBT pilot programs, ensure Buy American provisions for agricultural commodities are enforced in federal purchases and the National School Lunch Program, consider FDACS’ Farm to School Program as a national model, and transition school nutrition to a universal school meals program, providing all children with meals at no charge.
DIVERSITY, EQUITY, AND INCLUSION: Building on the historic diversity and inclusion policy changes instituted at FDACS, Commissioner Fried asks the Administration to promote racial equity in agriculture, establish grant matching for Land-grant Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs), create a joint equity advisory commission with state departments of agriculture, support several provisions from U.S. Senator Cory Booker’s Justice for Black Farmers Act, expand funding of federal programs for military veterans in agriculture, and consider FDACS’ Operation Outdoor Freedom as a national model for veteran rehabilitation.
RURAL COMMUNITIES: Florida’s rural poverty rate exceeds 20 percent, with more than two million Floridians lacking adequate internet access. Commissioner Fried asks the President to prioritize investment in rural broadband including municipally-owned broadband, expand access to rural mental health, telehealth, and rural healthcare facilities, invest in rural community and technical colleges, establish curricula on agricultural technology, expand access to capital for rural communities, and increase block grant funding to fight rural food insecurity.
CONSUMER SERVICES: As Florida’s consumer protection agency, Commissioner Fried, who as a member of Florida’s Clemency Board oversees the restoration of civil and voting rights, asks the Administration to establish consumer awareness campaigns on toxic fluorinated “forever chemicals” such as PFAS, strengthen federal and state enforcement provisions and punishments to regulate illegal telemarketing calls, and work with Congress to enact a national Automatic Voter Registration policy to empower all eligible citizens to vote.