Make us your home page
Instagram

House pushes bill to cap Everglades cleanup costs for agriculture

TALLAHASSEE — A bill that would shift some of the cost of cleaning up the Everglades from sugar and agricultural interests to Florida taxpayers and South Florida property owners is on the fast track in the Florida House.

The measure, which phases out the tax on the agriculture industry to pay for pollution cleanup, received unanimous bipartisan approval Thursday in the House State Affairs Committee, just two days after it was introduced.

Supporters say the legislation, PCB 13-01, is needed to codify the Everglades cleanup settlement between Gov. Rick Scott and the federal government. The state agreed to spend $880 million under the deal to follow through on cleaning up the state's famed River of Grass.

The agriculture industry, led by sugar growers, wants to expand that agreement to also cap the industry's contribution to the cleanup plan. Under the bill sponsored by Rep. Matt Caldwell, R-Lehigh Acres, the tax that has been paid by the industry since 1994, known as the Agriculture Privilege Tax, would combine with pollution abatement efforts used by farmers called "best management practices" to meet the industry's requirements to pay for the cleanup.

Under the "polluter pays" constitutional amendment passed in 1996, the producers of the phosphorus that has fouled the Everglades ecosystem for decades must be "primarily responsible" for paying the cleanup costs.

The sugar industry argues that it has paid its required share through the $25 per acre agriculture tax and by implementing expensive cleanup practices. The tax is set to drop to $10 in 2017 but, under the bill, it would be extended until 2024 at $25 an acre and then drop to $10 per acre.

The farmers estimate their contribution will equal about $6.6 million more than they would have had to pay if the tax were not extended, but environmentalists say that is not enough. They want sugar, dairy and other farmers in the Everglades Agricultural Area north of Lake Okeechobee to pay a larger share since data shows that 60 percent of the pollution into the Everglades comes from the agricultural area.

The House bill shifts more of the responsibility of paying cleanup costs from the industry to taxpayers, said Eric Eikenberg, director of the Everglades Foundation. "It's not just a shift, it's a shaft — for taxpayers,'' he said after the meeting.

Supporters say that the agriculture industry has been a good steward of the land. Opponents warn that local property owners whose taxes finance the South Florida Water Management District will shoulder most of the cleanup costs. The district expects to use $220 million in reserves and $300 million from new growth to pay for its share, and the governor has recommended spending $60 million a year in general revenue.

House pushes bill to cap Everglades cleanup costs for agriculture 03/07/13 [Last modified: Thursday, March 7, 2013 10:42pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times

    

Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

Loading...
  1. 'Road to Nowhere' is back: Next phase of Suncoast Parkway coming

    Roads

    Despite intense public opposition and dubious traffic projections, the Florida Department of Transportation has announced that construction of the toll road known as "Suncoast 2" is expected to start in early 2018.

    The Suncoast Parkway ends at U.S. 98 just south of Citrus County. For years residents have opposed extending the toll road, a project dubbed the "Suncoast 2" into Citrus County. But state officials recently announced that the Suncoast 2 should start construction in early 2018. [Stephen J. Coddington  |  TIMES]
  2. A sports rout on Wall Street

    Retail

    NEW YORK — Sporting goods retailers can't shake their losing streak.

  3. Grocery chain Aldi hosting hiring event in Brandon Aug. 24

    Retail

    BRANDON — German grocery chain Aldi is holding a hiring event for its Brandon store Aug. 24. It is looking to fill store associate, shift manager and manager trainee positions.

  4. Lightning owner Jeff Vinik backs film company pursuing global blockbusters

    Corporate

    TAMPA — Jeff Vinik's latest investment might be coming to a theater near you.

    Jeff Vinik, Tampa Bay Lightning owner, invested in a new movie company looking to appeal to a global audience. | [Times file photo]
  5. Trigaux: Look to new Inc. 5000 rankings for Tampa Bay's future heavyweights

    Business

    There's a whole lotta fast-growing private companies here in Tampa Bay. Odds are good you have not heard of most of them.

    Yet.

    Kyle Taylor, CEO and founder of The Penny Hoarder, fills a glass for his employees this past Wednesday as the young St. Petersburg personal advice business celebrates its landing at No. 25 on the 2017 Inc. 5000 list of the fastest growing private companies in the country. Taylor, still in his 20s, wins kudos from executive editor Alexis Grant for keeping the firm's culture innovative. The business ranked No. 32 last year. [DIRK SHADD   |   Times]