Nearly 75 members of the Florida Farm Bureau met with members of their congressional delegation this week to discuss agricultural issues as part of the group’s annual Field to the Hill event. Among the topics brought up during the event, which ended yesterday, were the controversial numeric nutrient criteria, a set of water pollution standards proposed by the EPA, and the heavily debated Farm Bill, which is currently being drafted.

In an interview posted on Southeast AgNet, Rep. Steve Southerland, R-Panama City, said he felt a “camaraderie among farmers” concerning many of the issues affecting Florida, and is especially concerned about the forthcoming Farm Bill (a bill being drafted to replace the Food, Security, and Bioenergy Act of 2008):

This year’s farm bill is gonna be centered on the budget. … There is not a single sector that is not gonna be affected by the national debt. … Because there’s a shrinking budget, we can’t just make good decisions regarding the ag bill, we have to make the very best decisions. So we’re trying to appeal to the appropriators — hey, give us, and allow us, to have more input, because the dollar has to go farther today. … I’m cautiously optimistic, but it’s gonna be long days, long nights.

Southerland also said he had lobbied hard to get a position on the agriculture committee and that he would be taking a close look at trade agreements and how they affect every sector of agriculture in the state.

Rep. Tom Rooney, R-Stuart, was also in attendance at the event, and spoke to AgNet about the EPA’s numeric nutrient criteria:

We had the numeric nutrient amendment, that was co-sponsored by Marco Rubio, over in the Senate … some success. It wasn’t part of the overall continuing resolution but we did get quite a lengthy delay. We’re hoping that we still have a chance to reverse what [the EPA wants] to do.

I also think that, legally, there’s going to be some issues with … the EPA picking on Florida, alone. There could be some legal problems with that, which could be good for us.

Rooney said he and Rubio are still hoping to get a response from EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson, whom they wrote with their concerns regarding the criteria: “We’re not just sending these letters for our health, we want to get the answers. … It would be horrible if these rules were able to be implemented.”

Together, Rooney and Rubio penned an op-ed that ran in TCPalm in late March, arguing that the criteria would “destroy jobs” and cost the state $2 billion per year. The two also falsely claimed that the criteria were the result of a decision made by the Obama administration. As previously reported by The Florida Independent, the decision to create the nutrient criteria occurred on Jan. 14, 2009, six days before Obama took office, and was actually one of the EPA’s “last acts under the Bush administration” (.pdf).

Listen to Southerland’s interview here:

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Listen to Rooney’s interview:

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