News Cast 2/10

News Cast for February 10th:

Agriculture facing challenges

Farmers and ranchers are asking the state for more tax breaks, help in getting migrant labor housing built and more money to market Florida home grown products, dairy, vegetables and beef.

They also continue to request more aid due to hurricane damage, estimated at $1 billion.

David Hill, a vegetable farmer, said its getting tougher to get housing built for migrant labor.  He’d like to make it easier to build housing on agriculture property.

He noted many municipalities and residents do not support migrant housing projects.

He said they currently get all of their help in the vegetable fields from Mexico.

“They are the best workers you ever saw in your life.  They love being here and we enjoy working with them, but it is expensive.”

Costs are going up and Hill said it costs farmers about $22 per hour for field labor when figuring in housing and transportation costs.

Cattle ranchers want help in repairing things from the hurricane.  They had stressed out cows in flooded pastures as well.  Corrals, barns and fences were damaged during Ian.

Jim Handley with the Florida Cattlemen’s Association said cows can normally thrive in any forage.

“We have to supplement the cattle on a year round basis because we have such sandy soil.  We provide a mineral.  Our soil is pretty week on basic things they need.  We winter cows up to 120 days with additional protein and energy.  When grass goes dormant, the nutritional quality goes down.  To maintain body condition you must supplement those cows.”

About 6 million acres in Florida are used for cattle grazing. 

Dairy farms have been reduced nearly 50 percent in the past six years and by 80 percent since 1992.

Dairy product demand is down with fewer people eating breakfast and dinner at home.

Brittany Nickerson Thurlough said its hard to survive on a dairy farm today.

“We have such a high cost of production here.  Our average herd size for a dairy farm is much larger than the national average.  It costs us so much more to make milk down here because of the costs of having to freight everything in.  A small farm typically can’t make it.”

They’d also like more Florida schools to use Florida dairy products to feed their students.

In the courts, an Okeechobee woman was sentenced to five years probation after pleading no contest to animal cruelty charges.

Lauren Fraser did not properly feed the dog and left it alone for several weeks in Lorida, according to her arrest report.

Highlands County Sheriff deputies were alerted by a neighbor. They said the dog was barely able to stand and was a one out of nine on the Purina body conditioning system.

Fraser told deputies that a member of her family had medical issues and she was unable to get transportation back to Lorida to feed the animal.

The Treasure Coast Builders Association urged Okeechobee to speed up building permits.

The county has been working with Safe Built to improve the process.

Assistant County Administrator Richard Reade said the company has been a really great partner in all the changes they are trying to make so development works a little better in the county.

“We have got to make sure the users can use the system otherwise we are wasting our time and our money.”