The History of the Florida Aquaculture Association
1984- The FAA helped draft, lobby, and pass the Aquaculture Policy Act. This act created the Aquaculture Review Council (ARC), which is our voice directly to the Commissioner of Agriculture.
1985- In August, the FAA filed a legal challenge to an unconstitutional rule on behalf of clam farmers which eventually resulted in a new attitude towards clam leases and revision of Chapter 18-21 FAC allowing leases to be issued. Florida now has over 500 clam leases.
The FAA was also able to include aquaculture in a rule revision of aquatic preserves and lobbied for the first-ever permanent staff positions within FDACS to support our industry.
1986- The first-ever Regulatory Sourcebook was published. This publication started a long process of revising regulations to make them simpler, affordable, and based on common sense. The FAA helped implement an aquatic health and diagnostic program in conjunction with FDACS. The FAA proposed aquaculture be defined as agriculture. Other activities included: farm-raised red drum becoming except from MFC rules; submission of a petition with over 160 names to the Cabinet of those interested in obtaining a lease; brought Department of Natural Resources (DNR) staff to an FAA Board meeting to discuss leases; and helped organize a Congressional hearing in Gainesville in April.
1987- The FAA initiated a seminar series for producers which has since been picked up by other organizations. The FAA participated in organizational meetings of the National Aquaculture Association (NAA). The FAA lobbying efforts resulted in the strengthening of FDACS's role, exemption of aquaculture from occupational licensing, provision for fuel tax exemption for aquatic farmers, and inclusion of aquaculture in the Right to Farm Act.
1988- The Aquaculture Policy Act was renewed and aquaculture, for the first time, was partially considered agriculture. The first two new leases under the revised rule and statute were issued.
1989- The head of the Department of Natural Resources (DNR) and the FAA met to set lease fees subsequently approved by the governor and cabinet, ending a six-year process. The FAA became a charter member of the National Aquaculture Association (NAA); opposed a state rule allowing the state to poison facilities if non-native species were found; and proposed legislation to segregate aquaculture from native (feral) wildlife laws, consolidate permitting, and establish strong anti-theft penalties. We supported a rulemaking tilapia hybrids easier to culture and opposed a rule requiring hybrid striped bass to be tagged. The FAA supported the establishment of the University of Florida Sam Mitchell Aquaculture Demonstration Farm, which was dedicated on Oct. 26th, 1989, and recommended the first-ever effluent study of aquaculture be conducted. The FAA challenged the minimum size rule for clams in court.
1990- A full-time lobbyist was hired by the FAA and supported the Issues of Concerns process of the ARC. The legislation further refined the definition of aquaculture favorably, sent the University of Florida IFAS effluent study to DER, delegated permitting to the Water Management Districts, consolidated FL Game and Fish Commission permitting, and defined aquaculture theft as grand theft.
1991- The FAA participated in Governor Chile's Inauguration Festival, recied widespread publicity from aquaculture articles published in Florida Sportsman Magazine, proposed a separate office of aquaculture within FDACS, defeated both a shellfish surtax and aquatic plant tax, removed the six-inch bottom restriction from shellfish leases and declared aquaculture to be in the public interest in aquatic preserves. A new marine life rule enacted and the FAA worked to get aquaculture included in Greenbelt Laws.
1992- The first separate FAA Legislative Reception was held at Kay Young's home, and the first FAA auction was held in Cedar Key as part of FAA' Annual Reunion. FAA requested the Department of Natural Resources to perform more water quality work in the Indian river to open up shellfish culture.
1993- Paul Norton of Ruskin, FL was elected President of the NAA, and the legislature finally declared aquaculture to be agriculture, added all five Water Management Districts to the ARC, and made further instructions on reforming and streamlining permitting.
1994- The General Permit system for aquaculture was enacted and lease rules were revised with no negative language being added or increase in fees due to FAA members' persistence. After nine years the clam size rule was passed by the Cabinet finally resolving "who owns the clam."
1995- Marine aquaculture was considered by Legislature due to a legislative report supported by FAA. The FAA made active plans to develop and support major legislation proposed for 1006. A legislative hearing in Cedar Key was organized and supported by FAA.
1996- The FAA helped Rep. Bert Harris pass one of the most far-reaching pieces of aquaculture legislation in the nation: "Aquaculture IS Agriculture" was strengthened to the maximum, created the certification program replacing permits in FDACS, transferred all aquaculture authority to FDACS, defined marine aquaculture, and accomplished a host of other things designed to encourage aquaculture and not unfairly regulate our business.
1997- The legislature encouraged sturgeon farming, counties were prevented from charging additional fees for leases, and sales taxes for aquatic farmers were reduced or eliminated. The farm gate value of aquaculture passed $100 million for the first time in Florida.
1998- The legislative session was another significant year for Florida's aquaculture industry and included the establishment of the Division of Aquaculture with FDACS. The new division was directed by the legislature to protect Florida's environment and enhance industry growth. For the first time, Florida aquaculturists could contact one office and get the answers and help to establish and operate a farm.
1999- The FAA participated in the process of developing a wide variety of BMPs to replace confusing and duplicative state permits and licenses issued by multiple agencies. BMPs become the core elements of the FDACS annual certification program. Commercial fishers that are growing hard clams were allowed to use their farm-gate income to meet the requirements to renew their Saltwater Product Licenses.
2000- The farm gate value of Florida aquaculture dips to $86 million but maintains a growth trend that began in 1987. Hard clam farming, as an industry segment, jumps to the number two spot over aquatic plants while tropical fish production remains number one in value even while suffering lower sales. The FAA supports the creation of a national marketing campaign to boost tropical fish sales and aquarium keeping that is managed by FDACS Bureau of Seafood and Aquaculture Marketing.
2001- The FAA fights for limited state funding to support applied research to solve production and technical problems that is managed by the ARC. The association also supports FDACS Division of Aquaculture and prevents position cuts that would cripple farm certification and inspection efforts. Certification continues to grow with 957 facilities certified as being in compliance with BMPs designed to protect Florida's fragile environment. FAA provided an industry perspective and recommendations to a multi-agency process to develop a Florida invasive species management plan.
2002- Nearly 200 people attended a Division of Aquaculture sponsored shrimp farming workshop in Bartow. Attendees learned about production and technical information including aquaculture site evaluation, farm design and construction, management, disease control, and brood-stock selection. The aquaculture certification process was updated to include BMP requirements with input from association members. This year, the FAA's lobbyist, Kay Young, retired. The many FAA "Taste of Aquaculture" legislative receptions held in the Young's backyard were always the highlight of the legislative session for our association and many legislators and guests in Tallahassee. At the FAA's fall meeting, Marty Tanner, was elected President and served in that position for the coming 15 years.
2003- Gov. Jeb Bush proposed to eliminate the Division of Aquaculture by cutting the staff from 54 to 3 and their budget would be cut from $4.9 million to less than $120,000. The FAA sent numerous industry representatives to Tallahassee during this legislative session to educate them on how important the division is to our industry and Florida's economic growth. Through intense lobbying efforts by members of the FAA and FTFFA in conjunction with Florida Farm Bureau, we were able to secure the necessary funding to keep the division.
2004- The U.S. economy was coming out of a mini-recession which had hit Florida's aquaculture industry as well. The tropical fish industry started to see an increase in sales from the hit movie "Finding Nemo" and the launch of the Glo-Fish. The legislature and the governor's office agreed to fully fund the Division of Aquaculture recalling the fight the industry had put forward in 2003. For the second year, the FAA participated in the Florida Farm Bureau's legislative reception held at the Tallahassee Convention Center. In the fall of 2004, the FAA held a successful Fall Conference at the Ybor City Campus of HCC. Attendance was slightly down as a result of Florida being hit by three hurricanes in a two month period.
2005- The FAA participated in much-needed fundraising activity by selling farm-raised seafood at the Ruskin Seafood Festival. Nearly 18,000 people were exposed to sustainable Florida farm-raised seafood products during the two-day event. The 2005 legislative session was a success in that agriculture got a sales tax exemption on power farm equipment that includes air and water pumps. This exemption saves aquatic producers much needed money on their equipment to produce their aquatic crops.
2006- The FAA launched its new website. In the fall of 2006, FAA hosted a fall conference at the Brandon Campus of HCC that included hands-on workshops, CEU's and a reception at the Florida Aquarium including a tour of the new AquariuMania exhibit. The 2006 legislative session funded $1.1 million for ARC projects.
2007- The World Aquaculture Society held its annual meeting at Disney World and the FAA was the State Association host. Attendees from all over the nation were able to take part in the Florida fish farm tours that showcased Florida's diverse aquaculture industry. This was also the year of a major economic recession that also affected the State budget including the Division of Aquaculture and the Tropical Aquaculture Lab funding for staff positions.
2008- Kay Young, the association's first lobbyist, rejoined the association and we brought back the successful "Taste of aquaculture" legislative reception in Young's backyard. During the 2008 legislative reception, $3.6 million was allocated to aquaculture including ARC projects, funding for the TAL, and for the alligator marketing and education program. We were also successful to defeat an attempt to remove all sales tax exemptions for aquatic farms. The FAA also worked to ensure aquaculture farms regardless of size would be eligible for Greenbelt Tax Assessment. We also lobbied hard to assure that UFAS funding is protected.
2009- We were successful in obtaining funding for the TAL and FAME programs, however, the legislature did not fund the 2010-2011 ARC projects. The Working Waterfronts amendment that was passed by Florida's voters in 2008 was a major issue for Florida's aquaculture industry. The FAA joined with the Save Our Working Waterfronts Coalitions to provide property tax relief for land use in an aquaculture operation. Once again, we had to defend and protect sales tax exception for those involved in aquaculture. With the ARC funding falling victim to the budget crisis. The FAA was one of a number of agriculture organizations that were opposing stiff U.S. EPA water quality standards of phosphorus and nitrogen in discharge water. The proposed EPA standards would be the death of Florida's aquaculture industry if adopted as proposed.
2010- We lost a long-time director and previous president of the FAA, Frank Hoff. The FAA established the "Hoff Memorial Education Fund" that individuals can contribute to give grants to public schools that have ongoing aquaculture courses to acquire supplies and livestock for classwork. The FAA continues to participate in the Florida Farm Bureau's legislative reception at the Tallahassee Civic Center to make legislators and their staff aware of our industry. During the legislative session, we had success in keeping funding for TAL and FAME programs, however, due to a tight state budget, no ARC projects were funded.
2011- Cathy Vogel, resigned as the association lobbyist at the end of the legislative session. The FAA endorsed Adam Putnam for the new Commissioner of Agriculture. Leslie Palmer was appointed as the new Division of Aquaculture Director. The Florida Farm Bureau held their annual Legislative Reception at the Leon County Civic Center in Tallahassee and the FAA was again, a part of the event. The legislative session was generall pretty favorable to agriculture. The legislature passed several bills that made significant changes for Florida farmers and approved funding for the ARC projects and staff positions at TAL. The FAA recently distributed to 400 agriculture teachers and announcement and application for our "Pioneer's of Florida Aquaculture" education grant program. This newly created program was established to help provide funds to schools that currently have an aquaculture course to enable them to purchase needed supplies for their curriculum. Eleven schools across the state submitted grant applications for the FAA Hoff- Norris Florida Ag in the Classroom Grant. Two were awarded grants, one school was in Miami and the other in Tampa. Also, the FAA gave two $500 Dan Leonard college scholarships.
2012- We retained Joe Spratt as our new lobbyist. We were successful in getting the 2012-2013 ARC projects funded for a total of $652,881. We were also successful in getting the removal of the prohibition to sell water hyacinth out of state; eliminating the agriculture fee for school aquaculture programs and transfer funding for TAL to the UFAS budget. The FAA"s commodity representatives also provided input to the division to update the Florida Aquaculture Plan for 2012-2013. The FAA joined the NAA to sponsor ta Business Management and Marketing Workshop at the USF/ St. Pete Campus in conjunction with the Annual Conference of the Florida Marine Science Educators Association. This workshop was part of an ARC approved project for 2011-2012 that included numerous speakers addressing current aquaculture production projects underway in Florida.
2013- The FAA awarded nearly $10,000 in scholarship and classroom grants since the establishment of the Florida Aquaculture Education and Scholarship Fund. In the fall of 2013, the FAA hosted a one-day "Introduction to Aquaponics" workshop in Winter Haven with over 70 individuals in attendance. The successful workshop also included a field trip to an aquaponics facility in Dade City.
2014- The FL Farm Bureau moved its Annual Agriculture Legislative Reception to the Capital Courtyard and FAA again participated in this popular venue to showcase our industry. The FAA was successful in securing the full funding for the research and education projects approves by the ARC and protecting the $850,000 for IFAS Aquaculture Extension Programs. Unfortunately, a bill to expand sales tax exemption for certain items including oxygen did not pass.
2015- The legislature was successful again in getting the ARC projects for 2015-2016 fully funded and funding for IFAS were left fully funded and intact after some lengthy lobbying efforts. Also, the Florida Alligator Marketing and Education Program was fully funded. The FAA was also successful in getting the term "livestock" in state statute to include all aquaculture products.
2016- FAA lobbyist was successful in obtaining $653,000 for ARC projects approved in the final budget, however, the governor used his line-item veto authority to cut some $256 million in the approved budget including the ARC funding requests. After the session, several FAA members met with the governor's staff to inform them of the importance of the ARC projects to Florida's aquaculture industry. On the positive side, a mechanical harvesting bill for shellfish was passed. In June, FAA exhibited at the Florida FFA Convention and Trade Show with a new exhibit display to promote the newly launched Aquaculture Education Certification Program sponsored by the FAA.
2017- Florida's aquaculture industry- legislatively speaking- has some victories and losses. For the second year in a row, ARC projects were not included in the approved budgets. On a positive note, we were successful in getting a sales tax exemption for animal health products. This amounts to a statewide $2.3 million tax savings on prescription and non-prescription animal health products used by the livestock industry, including aquaculture producers. This will save tropical fish farmers a considerable amount of money. Once again, we were unable to get a sales tax exemption for oxygen used on fish farms. In the summer of 2017, the FAA sponsored Aquaculture Education Certification program saw the first 10 students take and pass the online exam. FAA sent letters to numerous Congressional leaders in support of the Save America's Vulnerable Endangered Species Act. The SAVE Act would eliminate regulation of farm-raised non-native species and would protect the US and Florida's non-native surgeon industry. At the end of 2017, the federal legislation
was still pending before Congress.