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Manufacturing and logistics
employers gear up for
virtual career fair on Oct. 15
By Laura Byrnes, APR, CPRC
CareerSource Citrus Levy Marion
Published Sept. 23, 2020 at 8:10 p.m.
OCALA – CareerSource Citrus Levy Marion is scheduled to hold a virtual Manufacturing and Logistics Career Fair on Thursday, Oct. 15 from 10-11:30 a.m.
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The career fair is free and held in partnership with the Mid-FL Regional Manufacturers Association (MRMA).
Interested job candidates may register now at bit.ly/MLCareerFair.
More information is available at https://careersourceclm.com/ or by calling 800-434-JOBS (5627).
Several of the area’s top manufacturing and logistics companies, all with immediate jobs to fill, plan to take part in the virtual event including AutoZone Distribution Center, Cardinal Glass, Chariot Eagle, Cheney Brothers, Conimar Group, Custom Window Systems, E-One and R+L Global Logistics.
Kathleen Betz, MRMA’s executive director, said that “for those making their career choice, the Manufacturing and Logistics Virtual Career Fair provides a window into the wide variety of opportunities that exist within the exciting and growing fields of Manufacturing and Supply Chain."
Rusty Skinner, CEO of CareerSource CLM, added that the virtual platform enables candidates to meet in real time with hiring managers, learn about job openings and submit resumes.
“We are pleased to be able to offer this convenient option as an alternative to our traditional in-person events,” he said.
In addition, Skinner said participants will be able to take virtual tours of operations at SPX Flow, Winco Mfg., and ANCORP as well as learn about public school and post-secondary training programs available throughout the three-county region.
October is recognized as National Manufacturing Month and in Florida, there are nearly 21,000 companies and more than 357,000 individuals working in manufacturing. The most recent data for Florida indicates that the job growth rate in manufacturing, for the 12-months ending in December, is 2.8 percent compared to a 2.1 percent average for all other industries.
As of March, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics Quarterly Census of Employment and Wages reported 373 manufacturing establishments in the Citrus, Levy and Marion counties’ region with 10,703 employees and an average weekly wage of $839 compared to the average weekly wage of $710 for all private industry sectors in the three-county region.
In terms of logistics, the three-county region has seen an 8.7 percent increase in the number of transportation and warehousing establishments in the past five years – from 357 to 388 -- and a 25.5 percent increase in the number of logistics workers, up 1,141 to 5,614.
Interested job candidates are encouraged to create or update their resume, saved as a PDF, in order to upload it when registering to attend. Doing so will enable candidates to apply for jobs they are interested in with the click of a button.
Fee-free resume assistance is available Monday-Friday from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. by phone, email, Live Chat or teleconferencing. In-person assistance is available, by appointment, from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. at Career Centers in Ocala, Lecanto and Chiefland.
For help or to make an appointment, call 800-434-JOBS (5627) or visit careeresourceclm.com. Resume aids and resources are available at bit.ly/MLCareerFair.
deputy clerk applicants
Published Sept. 21, 2020 at 8:10 p.m.
BRONSON -- The Town of Bronson is seeking applicants to accept a full-time deputy clerk position.
This is a full-time position with benefits after probationary period. Hours of work are Monday through Friday from 8 a.m. to 4:30p.m. Hourly pay will depend on experience and qualifications.
This vacancy is open until filled.
This is professional administrative, financial and records management work that includes communication and coordination with town staff, the public, as well as town, state and federal elected and appointed officials.
Among the duties are coordinating local, state and federal legislative agendas. Work is performed independently under the supervision of the Town Clerk, who reviews work through reports, observations, and obtained results.
Applications may be picked up and-or dropped off at the Town of Bronson, Town Hall 650 Oak St., Bronson, FL 32621. Potential applicants with any questions or concerns are asked to please contact the Town of Bronson at 352-486-2354, Monday through Thursday from 7 a.m. to 5 p.m.
A complete job description is available by contacting the Town Hall at 352-486-2354.
For Widows And Widowers
Published Sept. 21, 2020 at 4:10 p.m.
NEWBERRY -- If you’ve recently become a widow or widower, you’re obviously dealing with an enormous emotional burden, and coping with your grief can seem like a full-time struggle.
Unfortunately, the business of life must go on – and the financial moves you make at this time can have a big impact on your life.
So, as you attend to your affairs, consider the following suggestions:
• Don’t make hasty decisions. Even though you will need to make some moves in the near future, don’t feel rushed into decisions that may prove to be ill-advised. For example, don’t immediately sell your home or liquidate all your stocks.
• Consult with your estate planning professional. If you and your spouse created an estate plan involving a will, living trust or other documents, you’ll want to consult with your estate planning professional to determine what steps should be taken to implement these arrangements.
• Address life insurance issues. If your spouse had a life insurance policy, you’ll want to contact your insurance agent for help in navigating the paperwork necessary to receive the death benefit. Of course, some financial advisors also sell life insurance within the context of your overall financial strategy, so, if this is your situation, you’ll want to speak with your advisor about how to handle the insurance proceeds.
• Apply for Social Security benefits. If you are 60 or older, you may be entitled to Social Security survivor benefits, along with a one-time death benefit. Contact your local Social Security office to stop the benefits your spouse received and apply for the new ones for yourself.
• Change the name on financial accounts. If you and your spouse had jointly held accounts with “right of survivorship,” the assets will typically pass automatically to you, the surviving spouse. However, for legal purposes, it’s still a good idea to retitle these assets in your name. This usually only requires filling out some simple documents, which are available from your financial institutions – bank, credit union, investment firm, etc. But you also may need to change the beneficiary designations on accounts held only in your name, such as your 401(k). These designations are powerful and can even supersede instructions in your will or living trust.
• Go over bills and debts. Review all your bills, automatic payments and outstanding loans. If they are in your spouse’s name, or in both your names, contact the merchant or financial services provider to change all correspondence and account information to your name only. For any outstanding accounts in your spouse’s name, you may need to notify the business that all payments will be handled by your spouse’s estate, if you choose to go that route. You may need to provide these businesses with the contact information of your estate planning professional.
• Plan for your future. Once you’ve handled the immediate financial needs described above, you’ll want to think about your own future. This means you may have to update your estate plans and insurance policies. You’ll also want to consult with your financial advisor to see what changes, if any, you might need to make to your investment portfolio.
Only time can ease the pain of losing a spouse. But by taking care of the mundane matters of daily living, you can at least alleviate the feelings of being overwhelmed – and that, in itself, has value.
PUBLISHER’S NOTE: This article was written by Edward Jones for use by Edward Jones Financial Advisor - Sheila K. Smith, 25349 W. Newberry Road, in Newberry. Phone 352-472-2776.
Come on and ZOOM;
Be active in Medicare choices
By Michael Crotts (Medicare Mike)
Published Sept. 19, 2020 at 6:10 a.m.
TRI-COUNTY AREA -- Many may recall a PBS television show airing in the early 1970s named ZOOM.
The show was hosted by child actors who danced, entertained and sang the theme song starting something like this.
Let's Do It!
Come on and ZOOM, Come on and ZOOM.
Almost 50 years later and one of the largest teleconference platforms to explode in popularity during the global COVID-19 pandemic is a publicly traded company named Zoom (ZM). The ZOOM television show encouraged children to “turn off the TV” and get active.
At Best Plan Choice, we are encouraging anyone eligible for Medicare to “join us on Zoom” and get active in your Medicare plan selections.
Every year by Oct. 1, the Medicare Advantage health plans release changes to their benefits for the upcoming calendar year. Changes may include additional benefits, new limitations, changes in copayment amounts, or even modifications to the pharmacy formulary which may impact your medication coverage. Reviewing the changes to your plan and comparing them to other health plan benefits does not need to be overwhelming. I have the resources to make the process simple and to help you find exciting new benefits to consider.
As your local agent, I can help you with your health insurance needs in a safe and convenient way with Zoom Medicare Seminars. You simply call in from your phone or join by computer.
We're all plugged into one world now.
When you join one of our Zoom Medicare Seminars we will cover important topics such as:
Special Enrollment Periods: You may be eligible to enroll into a new health plan without waiting until the end of the year. Special enrollment periods can occur because you move, qualify for Medicaid, have a chronic condition such as diabetes, or want to enroll in a five-star health plan.
● Important Medicare Changes: Health plans must pay for Medicare covered benefits but in Florida the Medicare advantage plans offer generous supplement or value-added benefits. New plans or products are not always advertised but I can show them to you after Oct. 1.
● Other Coverage: Even if you are happy with your Medicare plan, I can help you find coverage for a spouse or life partner who is not eligible for Medicare. And I can get a quote for life insurance products.
● Financial Assistance: Learn the facts about what financial assistance is available for Medicare health insurance and/or pharmacy expenses and how to apply.
Individual FREE “in-home” appointments are now available by video or phone – so, you get the personalized service you deserve without someone physically entering your home.
And if you like what you see, turn off your TV and DO IT!
ZOOM, ZOOM, ZOOM, ZOOM, ZOOM!
Come on and ZOOM, Come on and ZOOM!
To get a complete list of Zoom Medicare Seminars please call 352-815-5297 or email us at email@example.com. We will even send step-by-step directions on how to join a Zoom meeting. We have lots of exciting information to share and look forward to Zooming with you.
Publisher’s Note: Best Plan Choice and Medicare Mike advertise with HardisonInk.com.
Region’s economy shows
of recovery in August
By Laura Byrnes, APR, CPRC
CareerSource Citrus Levy Marion
Published Sept.18, 2020 at 5:10 p.m.
Updated Sept. 25, 2020 at 3:10 p.m.
OCALA – The unemployment rate in the CareerSource Citrus Levy Marion region was 6.4 percent in August, 3.2 percentage point lower than in July and 2.1 percentage point higher than the region’s rate a year ago rate. There were 13,020 unemployed in the region, 6,102 fewer than the previous month but still 4,356 more than August 2019.
The region’s labor force of 202,134, an expansion of 3,702 since July, was fueled by a strong increase in employment over the month – an increase of 9,804 to 189,114 – coupled with the sharp drop in the number of unemployed.
Among the state’s fastest growing metropolitan statistical areas over the month, the Homosassa Springs MSA grew fastest, at 1.9 percent, and the Ocala MSA, at 1.4 percent, was the third fastest growing metro.
According to the preliminary data for August, released today by the Florida Department of Economic Opportunity, Levy County had the lowest jobless rate in the region at 5.1 percent, a drop of 2.7 percentage point over the month; Marion County followed at 6.3 percent, a decrease of 3.0 percentage point; and Citrus County’s rate was 7.3 percent, down 4.0 percentage point from July.
Florida’s not seasonally adjusted jobless rate – a measure that matches the way local rates are calculated – was 7.7 percent, down from 11.6 percent the previous month and increase of 4.4 percentage point over the year.
Rusty Skinner, chief executive officer for CareerSource CLM, said the report shows “positive signs of a rebounding economy.”
Skinner noted that all three counties experienced an expansion of the Labor Force and in the number of those employed, with corresponding reductions in those unemployed.
Skinner added that in addition to providing virtual services, appointments for in-person assistance and access to the free SkillUp Citrus Levy Marion online job training and certification platform, the organization is hosting two virtual career fairs in the next two months.
“We’re partnering with the Mid-Florida Regional Manufacturers Association for a Manufacturing and Logistics Career Fair on Oct. 15 and we’re pleased to again offer the Paycheck for Patriots Job Fair, this year on November 10 – both will be virtual events,” Skinner said.
Nonfarm employment in the Ocala MSA was 106,400, posting the following strong gains over the year:
• The Ocala MSA had both the fastest annual job growth rate compared to all the metro areas in leisure and hospitality, at 3.8 percent, and the highest annual job growth, adding 500 jobs in August.
• The Ocala MSA was tied for the second highest annual job growth compared to all other metros in trade, transportation and utilities, adding 300 jobs, and the third highest job growth rate at 1.2 percent.
• The Ocala MSA had the third fastest annual job growth rate in mining, logging and construction at 7.0 percent, adding 600 jobs.
Statewide, all 67 counties experienced significant drops in the jobless rates.
Citrus County held the 11th highest rate compared to all 67 counties, a drop of two spots, Marion County tied with Sarasota County for the 2 highest and Levy County tied with Bay and Suwannee counties with the 42nd highest.
The Homosassa Springs MSA, which covers all of Citrus County, maintained the 6th highest unemployment rate among the state’ metro areas and the Ocala MSA was 16th.
In August, nonfarm employment in the Homosassa Springs MSA was 32,300, a decrease of 800 jobs (-4.0 percent) over the year.
The region’s preliminary employment summary for August is scheduled to be released on Oct. 16.
M-CORES Task Force
members meet to review
and refine draft report
Published Sept. 17, 2020 at 8:10 p.m.
TALLAHASSEE – The Florida Department of Transportation (FDOT) will facilitate each of the upcoming Multi-use Corridors of Regional Economic Significance (M-CORES) Task Force meetings and public engagement options this month.
The meetings will once again be conducted in a hybrid format allowing members of the public the option to attend in person to view the meeting broadcast as well as provide public comment.
During the September meetings, subject matter experts serving on the Task Forces will further refine the draft reports with a focus on guiding principles, instructions and action plans. The final reports, which will guide FDOT in the program’s subsequent study phases, are due to the governor and Legislature on Nov. 15. The meeting agendas and supporting materials have been posted to FloridaMCORES.com.
The hybrid meeting format offers additional options for the public to stay connected and engaged in the M-CORES planning process, while allowing Task Force members and the public to attend virtually due to COVID-19. Those who prefer to participate through the virtual GoToWebinar platform should register online at FloridaMCORES.com/events-calendar by clicking on the meeting date. All persons wishing to provide live public comments via the GoToWebinar format must register online no later than:
Northern Turnpike Corridor: Tuesday, Sept. 22, no later than 4 p.m.
Southwest-Central Florida Corridor: Wednesday, Sept. 23, no later than 4 p.m.
Suncoast Corridor: Thursday, Sept. 24, no later than 4 p.m.
Each Task Force meeting will have two locations open to the public that will broadcast the meeting live via GoToWebinar.
Those who attend in person will be required to comply with all local rules and ordinances regarding COVID-19 safety precautions. Enhanced safety and sanitation measures will continue to be taken at all in-person M-CORES events, including:
• Using CDC-recommended products to sanitize high-touch areas before, during and after the event
• Requiring all FDOT and consultant staff to wear masks
• Requesting that all attendees wear masks
• Providing hand sanitizer and masks for attendees
• Limiting the number of people in a room at one time to 50
• Utilizing signage and other tools to facilitate social distancing
• Implementing the use of single use sign-in materials and speaker cards
Members of the public attending virtually and in person will have the opportunity to provide comments to the Task Force members.
Virtual and In-person Options for Members of the Public, and other information, can be found on the MCORES website at https://floridamcores.com/.
FGC and Nutrien offer
By Stephen Culotti, Public Information Specialist
Florida Gateway College
Published Sept. 16, 2020 at 8:10 a.m.
LAKE CITY – Florida Gateway College (FGC) announced on Sept. 14 it has partnered with the White Springs agricultural products maker Nutrien to recruit and retain minority students and increase graduation rates in this underserved student population.
This diversity and inclusion initiative will help prepare students for direct employment upon graduation or through transferring to a four-year college or university.
The initiatives will include financial assistance with books and tools for STEM-related classes not covered by financial aid and mentors for students enrolled in the program. STEM is an acronym in this instance for Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics, although it does have other uses as an acronym.
The initiative will include course development and implementation of an African American History course and an African American Literature course.
“Nutrien is committed to diversity and inclusion. Studies reflect that a diverse workforce increases performance and innovation,” Nutrien Issues Manager Mike Williams said. “We believe that our workforce should be as diverse as the communities we serve.”
During the past five years, FGC has significantly increased its enrollment of minority students from 16 percent of the overall college student enrollment to now 21 percent of the overall student enrollment.
In addition, the success of FGC’s minority students has increased 6 percent during this same period. Historically, higher education institutions have difficulty in achieving both an increase in enrollment and an increase in student retention in any college student population.
Heat illness prevention
By Office of FDACS Communications
Published Sept. 12, 2020 at 8:10 a.m.
TALLAHASSEE -- With Florida’s harvest season beginning this month, Agriculture Commissioner Nikki Fried launched a heat illness prevention campaign on Friday (Sept. 11) to bring awareness to the devastating effects of heat illnesses and how to prevent illness and death from heat.
Each year, more than 600 Americans die from hyperthermia, one of the nation’s deadliest weather-related health outcomes. Agriculture workers die from heat-related illness at a rate 20 times greater than the other people in the United States’ workforce.
When the body cannot properly cool itself, victims can become susceptible to dangerous, life-threatening heat-related ailments including heat cramps and rashes, heat exhaustion, and heat strokes.
“Farmworkers are among the nation’s most at risk of heat-related illnesses. As essential workers and members of our communities, their health and safety are crucial,” Commissioner Fried said. “We are proud to launch this heat illness prevention campaign to help protect our farmworkers, whose labors feed our families, neighbors, and the world. By knowing the signs and taking precautions, we can keep everyone safe on farms and fields.”
The executive director of the Florida Association of Farmworkers endorsed the action.
“Florida’s farmworkers are the backbone of our state's agriculture industry, with their work fueling our biggest economic driver and feeding millions of Americans. As frontline workers, it is critical that farmworkers are protected from and trained on the devastating health effects of heat-related illnesses,” said Antonio Tovar, executive director of the Florida Association of Farmworkers. “We applaud Commissioner Fried for launching this heat illness prevention campaign to raise awareness on this issue and for her commitment to protecting Florida farmworkers."
The bilingual awareness campaign features shareable graphics and materials with tips in English and Spanish on how to identify and prevent heat illnesses. The campaign will feature videos and will also launch radio PSAs in the coming weeks.
Next week, Commissioner Fried and the Florida Department of Agricultural and Consumer Services (FDACS) will launch a nine-part video series for farmworkers on staying safe from COVID-19.
FDACS is asking Florida farmworkers to follow these practices to prevent heat illnesses:
● Stay hydrated: Drink plenty of water or fluids with electrolytes – don’t wait until you’re thirsty, hydrate consistently while working.
● Choose work attire wisely: Wear lightweight, light-colored, loose clothing, and protect your face by wearing a hat and sunglasses.
● Wear sunscreen: Sunburns make it harder to cool down and can cause dehydration, so apply sunscreen rated SPF 15 or higher.
● Use a buddy system: Heat illness can cause confusion and even loss of consciousness, so work near a buddy to check on each other and stay safe.
● Rest and cool down: Make sure to rest and cool down during the workday, by taking breaks in a shady or cool area.
● Stay alert, know the signs: Stay alert for signs of heat illness like headache, dizziness, fatigue or weakness, or a loss of consciousness – if suffering any of these symptoms, cool down immediately and call for medical assistance.
For more information on the heat illness prevention campaign, visit https://www.fdacs.gov/Agriculture-Industry/Heat-Illness.
USDA seeks input on ready-to-go
technologies and practices
for Ag. Innovation Agenda
By The USDA Press Office
Published Sept. 12, 2020 at 7:10 a.m.
WASHINGTON, D.C. – To further the United States Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) work on the Agriculture Innovation Agenda (AIA), the USDA on Sept. 10 announced it is seeking public- and private-sector input on the most innovative technologies and practices that can be readily deployed across U.S. agriculture.
The USDA is looking for ready-to-go technologies and practices to achieve its goal of increasing agricultural production by 40 percent to meet global population needs in 2050 while cutting United States agriculture’s environmental footprint in half.
“Across America, we have seen significant advances in agricultural production efficiency and conservation performance during the past two decades,” said Under Secretary Bill Northey, who leads USDA’s Farm Production and Conservation mission area. “We want to keep the momentum. As part of our Agriculture Innovation Agenda, USDA wants to continue helping farmers access new approaches.”
To help identify and accelerate adoption of ready-to-go innovations, USDA is currently accepting public comments and written stakeholder input through its Request for Information (RFI) through Nov. 9, which is published on the Federal Register.
Input is welcome from the private sector, not for profits, farmers, forest sector, trade associations, commodity boards and others involved in the supply chain or development of widely applicable practices, management approaches or technologies.
A ready-to-go practice, technology or management approach includes those that are fully developed, have been field tested and have completed independent research trials.
Based on stakeholder input from the RFI, USDA will develop a comprehensive U.S. agriculture innovation technology strategy for our customer-facing programs.
USDA has launched a new AIA website where visitors can access information on the latest research and data, innovative conservation technologies offered via USDA programs, and other conservation resources. Visitors can also stay up to date on USDA’s accountability metrics and learn about the experiences of producers who share similar paths to success.
● Background on USDA’s Agriculture Innovation Agenda:
The AIA is comprised of four main components. The first component is to develop a U.S. agriculture innovation strategy that aligns and synchronizes public- and private-sector research. The second component is to align the work of our customer-facing agencies and integrate innovative technologies and practices into USDA programs. The third component is to conduct a review of USDA productivity and conservation data. USDA already closely tracks data on yield, but on the environmental side, there’s some catching up to do. Finally, USDA has set benchmarks to improve accountability. These targets will help measure progress toward meeting future food, fiber, fuel, feed and climate demands. Some of the benchmarks include:
● Agricultural Productivity: Increase agricultural production by 40 percent by 2050 to do our part to meet estimated future demand.
● Forest Management: Build landscape resiliency by investing in active forest management and forest restoration through increased Shared Stewardship Agreements with states.
● Food loss and waste: Advance our work toward the goal of reducing food loss and waste by 50 percent in the United States by the year 2030.
● Carbon Sequestration and Greenhouse Gas: Enhance carbon sequestration through soil health and forestry, leverage the agricultural sector’s renewable energy benefits for the economy and capitalize on innovative technologies and practices to achieve net reduction of the agricultural sector’s current carbon footprint by 2050 without regulatory overreach.
● Water Quality: Reduce nutrient loss by 30 percent nationally by 2050.
● Renewable Energy: Increase the production of renewable energy feedstocks and set a goal to increase biofuel production efficiency and competitiveness to achieve market-driven blend rates of 15 percent of transportation fuels in 2030 and 30 percent of transportation fuels by 2050.
View the RFI on the Federal Register, or download it by clicking HERE. (It is a PDF that is 247 kilobytes.) For more information about the Agriculture Innovation Agenda, please visit https://www.usda.gov/aia.
New online feature allows
entities to conduct online
business with USDA
By Renee Bodine
Natural Resources Conservation Service
Public Affairs Florida
Published Sept. 12, 2020 at 6:10 a.m.
GAINESVILLE – An update to farmers.gov now provides access to farmers and ranchers who are members of an entity, as well as individuals and entities with powers of attorney to conduct online business with USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS). Additionally, online services once available through NRCS’s Conservation Client Gateway (CCG) will be moved to farmers.gov in the coming weeks.
“Here at NRCS, we are committed to providing excellent customer service, whether it’s through our network of USDA Service Centers across the country or online at farmers.gov where we have new self-service features related to our conservation programs," Florida State Conservationist Juan Hernandez said. “We’re proud to announce that both farmers and ranchers acting as entities as well as those acting on a farmer’s behalf have access to self-service options online.”
Self-service features were added to farmers.gov farmers.gov in June, and this latest update expands the scope to include farmers and ranchers who are members of an entity, as well as people with a power of attorney form (FSA-211) on file with USDA’s Farm Service Agency (FSA).
Now on farmers.gov, producers, entities and those acting on their behalf can securely interact with NRCS, sign and download documents, and view conservation contract information. Once entity or power of attorney information is filed with FSA, farmers.gov automatically gives customers access to their profile and any other profiles they have the authority to represent in the customer’s farmers.gov account. This is an upgrade from the legacy system, CCG, that required producers to request access as an entity or power of attorney and provide documentation.
Producers can access these conservation features by desktop computer, tablet, or phone.
The features being announced today add to existing features on site, including:
● View, download, and e-sign documents;
● Request conservation assistance;
● Reference technical terms and submit questions;
● Access information on current and past conservation practices; and
● View detailed information on all previous and ongoing contracts, including the amount of planned and received cost-share assistance.
The features include the most popular aspects of CCG while providing enhanced functionality and an improved user experience.
Managing Conservation Online
To access their information, producers will need a USDA eAuth account to login into farmers.gov. After obtaining an eAuth account, producers should visit farmers.gov and sign into the site’s authenticated portal via the “Sign In / Sign Up” link at the top right of the website.
Google Chrome, Mozilla Firefox, or Microsoft Edge are the recommended browsers to access the feature.
Racial inclusion and equality
changes created for FDACS
By FDACS Communications
Published Sept. 10, 2020 at 5:10 p.m.
TALLAHASSEE – Today (Thursday, Sept. 10), Agriculture Commissioner Nikki Fried announced a series of policy and procedure changes within the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services to create a more racially inclusive and equitable state agency.
These include the use of force, de-escalation, and excessive force intervention by the department’s law enforcement office, updated discrimination complaint procedures, and other changes.
“Like so many, I watched in horror at the deaths of Ahmaud Arbery, Breonna Taylor, George Floyd, and too many other Black Americans. As a former public defender, I share the deep frustration of the Black community at the senseless, continued murder of Black people, and the failure of leaders in positions of power to make impactful changes,” said Commissioner Fried. “These improvements to our department’s policies are our first step on the road towards greater inclusion and equity in service to people of color and all our fellow Floridians.”
“Members of the Black Caucus have worked for decades to build equity in our state and our government,” said State Senator Bobby Powell, Chair of the Florida Legislative Black Caucus. “We appreciate that Commissioner Fried, as an elected Cabinet member, is acknowledging this fight, making it a priority, and taking action to make an impact. Commissioner Fried has shown a strong commitment to increasing diversity, inclusion, and equity within the Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services since taking office, and we stand united with her towards progress.”
In May 2020, Commissioner Fried created a Diversity and Inclusion Work Group within FDACS, a twelve-member committee of diverse backgrounds and perspectives. The Work Group reviewed existing department policies and developed recommendations to improve diversity, inclusion, and equity within the department. The changes announced today to certain department Administrative Policies and Procedures (AP&Ps), based on those recommendations, include:
Core Values: Addition of “inclusion” to the department’s core values, which also include professionalism, commitment, integrity, innovation, and excellence.
Law Enforcement Policies: Updates to our Office of Agricultural Law Enforcement’s Policy 2-01 on Use of Force to include the following:
● Established that the lateral vascular neck restraint (LVNR) is not an approved or authorized technique for use with aggressive, physically resisting subjects
● Officers shall use de-escalation tactics to reduce the need for use of force
● Any officer or department member who observes any excessive use of force is required to immediately intervene and report these acts
Updates Discrimination Protections: Adds gender identity as a protected class for OPS employees (AP&P 5-12), and now allows for third-party witnesses to file discrimination complaints (AP&P 5-21), increasing accountability within the department.
Social Media: Addition of new guidelines (AP&P 8-15) for acceptable social media usage for FDACS employees, further establishing that racist, discriminatory, or otherwise unacceptable content will not be tolerated.
Contract Language: Finally, the review of FDACS contractual leases for discriminatory language, to ensure contractual documents properly reflect department values.
Since taking office in 2019, Commissioner Fried has worked to improve diversity, equity, and inclusion in Florida. This includes adding landmark LGBTQ protections within her first week in office, appointing both an LGBTQ Consumer Advocate and a Director of Diversity and Inclusion, appointing a record number of women to department leadership, and launching a $1 million grant program to assist, among others, consumers of color who face three times higher household energy financial burdens.
Cattle rancher adds
to operations due to COVID-19
Standing on the porch of The Quincey Cattle Co. storefront, located at 2350 N.W. 120th St., near Chiefland are (from left) Kay Alexander, Donna Quincey and Kayla Gonzales.
Story and Some Photos
By C.L. Watson
HardisonInk.com Correspondent © Sept. 8, 2020 at 11:10 p.m.
LEVY COUNTY – With a family history that includes 160 years of raising livestock in Levy County, today’s ranchers at The Quincey Cattle Co. have added to their operations to include retail beef sales.
Donald Quincey Sr.
Photo Provided by Quincey Cattle
The 1974 Suwannee River Fair Livestock Judging Team are seen here in this old newspaper clip, and they are (from left) Chris Hardee, Don Quincey, Loran Brookins and Mike McElroy.
Photo provided by Quincey Cattle.
Donald Quincey Sr., Luther Drummond, Don Quincey Jr. and an FFA participant pose with feeder steer.
Photo provided by Quincey Cattle.
Remnants of an old fireplace from Hayes’ homestead is located on the Quincey Cattle farm.
COVID-19 presented issues for cattle sales in Florida in March, including for interests that bought livestock at the 2020 Suwannee River Fair and Youth Livestock Show and Sale in the City of Fanning Springs. This is the story of the Quincey family in Levy County and of the addition of a new option for consumers who want to buy local beef that is ready for the grill or stovetop. This new opportunity resulted from cattle ranchers overcoming certain COVID-19 obstacles.
This family’s story in Levy County began long ago.
Samuel Quincey was born in England around 1830. He and his wife Sarah moved to Levy County in the early 1860s. He is listed in the historic Levy County Voter Registration Rolls of 1867-1868 as living in Precinct 3, Levy County.
A few years later, the 1870 United States Federal Census records list Samuel as a blacksmith residing in the same location with wife Sarah and three minor children. The family received mail at a post office box in Bronson.
The Quincey family applied for a Homestead and Cash Entry Patent for the 40 acres they had been farming in 1875. To qualify using homestead, entry applicants had to be United States citizens, as well as to reside and cultivate the land for five years prior to the approval.
By 1880, the United States Federal Census recognized the area around the Quincey property as Levyville and Bronson. Samuel and Sarah were farming the land and the family had grown to include seven children.
John W. was the oldest son. He was born in November of 1865. John grew up farming with his family and married Mary Sheffield in 1899. The 1910 census records show John and Mary farming in the Judson area of Levy County and having five children.
Their oldest son Samuel Quincey was born in 1900. He grew up to be a farmer as well. He married Amanda (Annie) Scarborough in Trenton on Nov. 27, 1921. 1930. The United States Federal Census lists Samuel and Annie as farming in the Judson area of Levy County with five children. According to census records of 1940, the family grew to include nine children with the listed occupation as laborer on an owned farm.
One of Samuel and Annie’s son was Donald Quincey Sr. born 1925. Donald and his siblings grew up on a farm.
Donald Quincey Sr. along with his brother Clyde were enlisted in the United States Navy Armed Guard in the 1940s. Both served on the SS Stanvac Cape Town as members on of the U.S Navy Gun Crew. After his service in the Navy, Donald return to Levy County and married Nancy Harlene Walker. The couple purchased, sometime in the 1950s, roughly 240 acres where the current Quincey Cattle headquarters and storefront is located.
The operation has grown to be around 1,000 acres now. The cattle farm is run by Donald Quincey Jr. and his wife Donna.
It was in March when the annual Suwannee River Fair and Youth Livestock Show and Sale (SRF) when one issue sparked innovation and some change in operations for The Quincey Cattle Co.
The annual SRF is where local students show and sell livestock, as well as compete with crafts, barbecue and other activities.
The students sell cattle to buyers that are ready for immediate processing.
The Quincey Cattle Co. purchased 23 of the SRF steer. Then, a few days after the sale, due to COVID-19, Quinceys were unable to resell the cattle to regular wholesalers. The wholesalers all shut down normal operations and there was no reopening date determined.
Don and Donna noticed grocery stores had limited or no available beef for consumers at the time too. They went with an idea of processing and reselling beef from the 23 steer, which they purchased -- not knowing if the idea would flourish or flop.
Donna’s family owned Wayside Meat & Deli in Bronson from 1979 to 1992. She had some experience from the family’s business in retail and used that knowledge to help establish a foundation to the company’s new venture of selling directly to consumers.
Now, individuals can purchase a variety of beef cuts from the Quincey Cattle office located at 2350 N.W. 120st St., Chiefland, or at any of the scheduled pop-up locations.
Ranch hours for beef purchases are Monday and Tuesday, and Thursday and Friday from 9 a.m. to 12 p.m., and 1 p.m. to 5 p.m.
There is no farm pick-up available on Wednesday.
Prior to the new venture of retail, The Quincey Cattle Co. has been raising feeder calves for many years. The calves consume grass for around 70 percent of their lives and the last 30 percent they eat grain for beef marbling and flavor.
The company has networked with local peanut farmers on crop rotation to grow corn in off seasons to feed the calves. The livestock never leaves the State of Florida. It is born, raised and finished here.
Not only does this practice reduce the companies carbon footprint it allows the company to use the Fresh From Florida marketing.
Quincey Cattle Co.
Has Pop-Up Sales;
Bigger Story Coming Soon
Amanda Grinstead and Eli Poole prepare to help customers under the shade of the pop-up tent for the Quincey Cattle Co. at the Drummond Community Bank branch in Archer on Wednesday (Aug. 26). This truck and tent have been showing up all over the Tri-County Area of Levy, Dixie and Gilchrist counties, and (here) beyond.
The truck is under the shade of some big oak trees on the property. The Quincey Cattle Co. is proud to offer USDA graded, locally raised, fed and harvested prime beef loins. Among the beef cuts available are prime ribeye loins; prime tenderloins; and 80/20 ground beef. Prime cuts that are available on request are beef brisket; strip loins; roasts and other beef products. On this day, there also were various dog treats available for purchase too. Call the office for pricing and availability -- 352-493-4824. HardisonInk.com has a correspondent who is working on a bigger story for publication in the near future, thanks to Quincey Cattle Co.
Photos By Jeff M. Hardison © Aug. 26, 2020 at 7:10 p.m.
Treasure Camp Changes
Paige Brookins, the new owner of the Treasure Camp in the community of Fowler’s Bluff (unincorporated Levy County) pauses for a moment on Labor Day (Sept. 7) near a sign for the establishment right next to the Suwannee River. She very kindly agreed to the photo op, even though she was working and there was no advance notice of some journalist dropping in. Treasure Camp is under new management. It still offers food and drink with indoor dining (limited for now due to COVID-19), outdoor seating as well as pickup of food orders. There is ice, beer, sandwiches and chips, and bait. The menu is anticipated for some possible revision in the near future. In addition to bait, there is more good news for boaters, there is marine gasoline for sale, and the Treasure Camp is located right next to the Levy County Public Boat Ramp at Fowler’s Bluff. For people who have lawnmowers in the area, the marine gas sales are open for them too. There once were boats for rent at Treasure Camp, but that is not an option now. However, people can rent cabins right in the Treasure Camp. For more information, including about renting cabins and to make reservations for those cabins or to call in a pickup order for food, call 352-493-7607.
Photo By Jeff M. Hardison © Sept. 7, 2020 at 4:10 p.m.
Daily News Website
continues to thrive;
of Unique Visitors is 11,217
‘Here’s To 10 Years!’
By Jeff M. Hardison © Sept. 2, 2020 at 8:10 p.m.
All Rights Reserved
THE WORLD – The daily news website named HardisonInk.com continues in its 10th year of existence with figures from Aug. 1 through Aug. 31 at par with high website traffic established in the past several years, according to two independent third-party robotic measuring devices -- Google Analytics and cPanel.
This money tree has 10 $5 bills attached to it to equal $50 in cash. A person will win this tree and the cash on it as part of a skills contest, where the key to qualify will be to find a leaf hidden in different ads on different days. This is part of the ‘Here’s To 10 Years!’ fun. Find the leaf daily from Sept. 7 through Sept. 14. These will be well-hidden leaves. HardisonInk.com informs, educates and entertains people. See the Leisure Page for details.
Photo by Jeff M. Hardison
Jeff M. Hardison, owner, publisher and sole proprietor doing business as HardisonInk.com shared his perspective on some news regarding the websites tenth year in business.
“As for the daily news website,” he said, “there were more than 10,000 unique visitors who went to it in August. We experienced in excess of one million hits, again, in the month of August.”
Hardison said the eight-month average of unique visitors for the first eight months of 2020 is 11,217, with the August number coming in at 10,488.
The eight-month average for hits so far in 2020 is 1.3 million hits a month.
Hardison said he is thankful to God first, and then he is thankful for the continued reading and viewing of stories, photos and videos, which shows a strong base of people as the daily news website moves forward through its tenth year of existence.
The tenth year of HardisonInk.com began Feb. 1, 2020.
The business owner said he extremely appreciates other business owners and interests who continue to buy ads to sponsor HardisonInk.com.
“The relatively significant global and national economic downturn in 2020,” Hardison said, “has shown an impact in the Tri-County Area. Almost all advertising interests who sponsor HardisonInk.com have renewed year after year.”
The numbers for August of 2020 are shown in the graphic at the top of this story.
The first gauge reflects Unique Visitors.
Webopedia.com defines unique visitor as "a person who visits a website more than once within a specified period of time."
Software used for this report can distinguish between visitors who only visit the site once and unique visitors -- who return to the site.
The unique visitor is different from a site's hits or page views -- which are measured by the number of files that are requested from a site. Unique visitors are measured according to their unique Internet Protocol addresses, which are like online fingerprints, and unique visitors are counted only once no matter how many times they visit the site after they have visited it twice.
“I continue looking forward to every second in 2020,” Hardison said. “As HardisonInk.com never breaks stride in its tenth year of existence, the theme in this 12-month span is “Here’s To 10 Years.”
The August total of unique visitors 10,488.
“I remember one month during the first year,” Hardison said, “when I thought 800 was a lot of unique visitors to be touching the website in a month. With the August monthly amount of computer addresses visiting the daily news website, I am confident and proud to sell ads at the same rate that was good when there were only 800 a month. We have not increased the cost for advertisers who sponsor the daily news website – other than the short-term advertisers. As for the national ads at the bottom of the pages, I removed those in July.”
NUMBER OF VISITS
Another measure of traffic is the number of visits.
In August, the number was 26,930 visits.
Pages Viewed shows how many different pages the visitors looked at. This website has the Home Page, Police Page, Calendar Page, Business Page, Community Page, Life Page and the Leisure Page.
The monthly total pages viewed in August was 72,276. There are ads on each page, and the readers see those ads.
The August total of hits were more than 1.1 million (1,136,634).
What is a “hit?” When a viewer looks at a page, there are elements on the page that register a “hit.” For instance, if there are four pictures on a page, then that August equal four “hits.” Like all the gauges, this is a measure of traffic.
All measurements combined show that the daily news website is continuing its trend of progress and growth each year.
“These figures herald the fact that many people each day use HardisonInk.com as a source for information,” Hardison said. “And they return daily. The graph surprised me a little today (Sept. 2), because for some reason there were higher counts today for the end of July than what I saw on Aug. 1.”
HardisonInk.com continues to provide readers, viewers and listeners with news and human interest stories, photos and videos. Business owners and others see this is the best site for Levy, Dixie and Gilchrist counties’ daily news every day -- as well as picking up statewide news, national news and international news.
People know there are no bounds for where HardisonInk.com coverage will go as it informs, educates and entertains people.
This website is the best medium in this market to advertise, which is proved by the traffic numbers as well as the results seen by sponsors.
This daily news website has the Weather Bug on the Home Page for all current weather and forecasting needs, including radar and Weather Alerts. It has columns for quilt reports, Christian devotionals, Exploring Finances and more.
HardisonInk.com provides state news on the BUSINESS PAGE and other pages on occasion when it is merited. And there have been national and international stories on other pages, including the HOME PAGE and POLICE PAGE.
CHECK OUT THE ARCHIVES
The Florida native said his wife is a vital part of the reason for such a high success rate for the website.
"I thank God for bringing Sharon Hardison into my life more than 33 years ago now, and we celebrated our 31st anniversary in July," Jeff Hardison said. "She does so much for me, that it continues to fill me with awe daily. Sharon is the multiple award-winning graphic artist who creates most of the ads. She is my bookkeeper who provides information to my accountant, too. The archive page is from her work. Go to any of the seven pages and find the ad for the archive page on the bottom right column and click on it.
"A new window will open." he continued. "Just go to the month you want and scroll down. If you see a link that looks interesting, click on it. The newest addition is a direct link to all of the videos that have been published. CHECK OUT OUR VIDEOS on YouTube.com. If you see any video you want to watch, click on it.”
There are a couple of different main sites for YouTube.com sites with videos by Jeff M. Hardison. Here are two links – click HERE for one main site and click HERE for the other main site.
ADVERTISEMENT KEEPS IT GOING
HardisonInk.com is visible for free to anyone who can see pages on the Internet. Therefore, people all over the world – and in the International Space Station – can view it.
This site is subscription-free entirely because of its sponsors. Not only do advertisers help the people in the world (and astronauts in space) see Levy, Dixie and Gilchrist counties, but those business interests enjoy the most exposure for the least ad dollars spent.
"We don't put up winky-blinky ads or pop-ups in our local ads," Hardison said. "Our local ads don't move around by the minute. And I promote our local advertisers in other places in addition to HardisonInk.com. I have removed the national ads, except where a local advertiser carries a national or global product – like Stihl saws at the Tri-County Saw Shop."
HardisonInk.com is the best daily news website that covers Levy, Dixie and Gilchrist counties (and beyond).
HardisonInk.com provides the best return on investment of dollars spent on advertising in the world, because people all over the world see it. As for interests in the Tri-County Area of Levy, Dixie and Gilchrist counties, the same is true because the Tri-County Area is the primary focal point of news coverage.
Here’s To 10 Years!
“The big prize for the November contest is going to be a $100 gift card to BubbaQue’s,” Hardison said. “The $50 Money Tree Contest is our next contest. Check out the ad on the Leisure Page for that. Here’s To 10 Years! And I hope everyone enjoys participating in the $50 Money Tree Contest!
“Sharon created the Money Tree Contest for Sept. 7-14,” he continued. “People will find a leaf in ads on those days. The Summer Fun Contest had the Sun that was found. I looked at some of the ad samples for the contest to find the leaf, it will be more difficult than the one where people found the Sun.
“The winner in this contest is getting $50 in cash, with $5 bills on the branches, and the Money Tree too,” Hardison added. “I think it is a cute prize, but people will need to look very closely to find the leaf daily from Sept. 7 through Sept. 14.”
Consumers advised to verify
By FDACS Office of Communications
Published Sept. 2, 2020 at 7:10 p.m.
TALLAHASSEE -- As new disinfectants claiming effectiveness against the coronavirus rise in popularity across the United States, the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services’ (FDACS) Division of Agricultural Environmental Services is encouraging consumers to make sure that the products they choose qualify for use against SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19, before purchasing or using them at home or in the workplace.
“With an abundance of new products flooding our shelves and online marketplaces during this pandemic, it’s important that consumers and businesses do their homework before purchasing disinfectant products,” Florida Department of Agriculture Commissioner Nikki Fried said. “While many disinfectants are effective against COVID-19, others are not and can be harmful if misused. Consumers should verify that the product they’re purchasing is registered with the EPA and FDACS, and is proven to be effective.”
FDACS is encouraging consumers and businesses to review the Environmental Protection Agency’s list of EPA-registered disinfectant products that have qualified for use against SARS-CoV-2 before purchasing or using a disinfectant claiming to be effective against COVID-19.
Disinfectants are considered pesticides and must be used in accordance with label directions, and must be registered with FDACS.
Consumers are advised to reference the National Pesticide Information Retrieval System to ensure that disinfectant products are registered for use in Florida. Consumers or businesses seeking more information can contact FDACS’ Pesticide Registration Review Section at 850-617-7940, or visit the FDACS Division of Agricultural Environmental Services Pesticide Registration page.
FDACS’ Division of Agricultural Environmental Services administers various state and federal regulatory programs concerning environmental and consumer protection issues, including the regulation of pesticides that are distributed, sold, or offered for sale in Florida, which includes in excess of 16,000 pesticide product brands.
HDG Hotels opens
new Gainesville hotel
Navroz Saju, co-founder and CEO of HDG Hotels, Nurjehan Saju, general manager of the Howard Johnson (Ocala), Azim Saju, co-founder and vice president of HDG Hotels celebrate the opening of the Comfort Suites in Gainesville with the team before the property officially opened to guests.
Photo, Graphic and Story Provided
By Lisa Lombardo
HDG Hotels Chief People and Culture Officer
Published Sept. 2, 2020 at 11:10 a.m.
GAINESVILLE – HDG Hotels has officially opened hotel 19 of its portfolio.
An artist's conception of the hotel is seen here.
The Comfort Suites is located at 2603 S.W. 13th St. in Gainesville -- just minutes away from the University of Florida, UF Health, downtown Gainesville and the Cade Museum for Creativity and Invention. The hotel boasts modern finishes, 105 suite rooms, 1,200 square-feet of event space adjacent to an expansive lobby for additional entertaining, a fire pit and a saltwater pool.
“Our ties to Gainesville conjure up feelings of nostalgia,” shares Azim Saju, co-founder and vice president of HDG Hotels. “My brother and our CEO Navroz Saju and I both spent time here as students. Before he moved to Georgetown for law school, I lived with Navroz while he began his undergraduate studies at the University of Florida. I was finishing high school in Gainesville at the time. After college, I returned to Gainesville and became a UF alum as well, graduating from UF’s Levin College of Law. Gainesville holds a special place in our hearts and we look forward to positively impacting this community.
“With an existing footprint of hotels that accounts for 1,787 rooms throughout North Central and Central Florida, we are excited to be in a position to once again invest in this region,” Saju added. “The Comfort Suites of Gainesville is a beautiful property. We look forward to having the opportunity to now take care of those staying in Gainesville – a community that has played such a significant part in our lives.”
HDG Hotels is headquartered in Ocala (Marion County) with influence and service to the industry that stretches from local, state, national and even international roles. The hotel development and management company’s vision is “to positively impact the people and world around us.”
To that, HDG offers its team members medical, dental and vision insurance, wellness programs, a 401K match, ownership opportunities, and other benefits. The company also partners with its team members on outreach efforts within the communities in which is has a presence.
Truck driver training pad under
construction at Olustee Center
By Stephen Culotti, Public Information Specialist
Florida Gateway College
Published Sept. 1, 2020 at 8:10 p.m.
LAKE CITY– Construction has started on a 28,000-square-foot driving pad at Florida Gateway College’s Olustee Public Safety Training Center.
Funded by a $2.39 million federal grant, the facility will be used for truck driver training as a part of FGC’s CDL (Commercial Driver License) Program.
The CDL program will prepare an estimated 100 students per year for a career in the commercial trucking industry. Truck drivers are in high demand locally and across the country.
This project is part of a larger multi-year improvement and expansion effort at the Olustee Center. In 2017, a three-story firefighter training burn tower was completed, allowing real-world simulations for fire trainees.
A recently completed $1.3 million firing range complex will soon be the home of FGC’s law enforcement firearms training, relocated from its current site on the main campus.
Overall, the plan will comprise $4 million in facility improvements at the Olustee Center.
The driving pad project is expected be complete by the fall of 2021.
DCSO earns award for
managing offsite medical costs
DCSO Maj. Scott Harden (left) accepts the award on behalf of Dixie County Sheriff Dewey Hatcher Sr. as Gilchrist County Sheriff Bobby Schultz, who is the president of the Florida Sheriff’s Association, presents the award on Monday (Aug. 31).
Story and Photo Provided
By DCSO Maj. Scott Harden
Published Sept. 1, 2020 at 7:10 a.m.
DIXIE COUNTY -- The Florida Sheriff’s Association and Hunt Insurance Group created a program with Prime Health Services Inc. to help manage offsite medical costs for the treatment of inmates.
Medical expenses varied greatly from outside treatment centers and were all too often far from the normal contracted rates of the insured. Prime Health Services reviews billing records received by the sheriffs for these treatment costs and then negotiate the bills down to an acceptable level within the range of normal treatment costs.
On Monday afternoon (Aug. 31), Major Scott Harden met with the Florida Sheriff’s Association President – Gilchrist County Sheriff Bobby Schultz -- to accept the 2020 award on behalf of Dixie County Sheriff Dewey Hatcher Sr.
This award is for the 2019 year and was awarded to the Dixie County Sheriff’s Office for being the winner of the “Inmate Medical Cost Management Program Award Winner.” Sheriff Hatcher’s participation in this program saved Dixie County $278,000 in 2019 and was the largest percentage savings for all of the Florida sheriffs.
IFAS issues picker parades alert
Story and Photo Provided
By Mark Warren
Extension Agent, Row Crops
UF/ IFAS Extension, Levy County
Published Aug. 12, 2020 at 12:10 p.m.
BRONSON -- It is that time of year again when we all need to slow down, exercise a little patience, pull off to the side of the road, and take a few minutes to recognize the value of one of our county’s most important industries.
Even if you’re not directly involved in Levy County agriculture, if you own a business here, work for someone who does, or have just come to relax and retire, your connection to local agriculture goes well beyond the proverbial three meals a day. Now I know that many minds just jumped to some of the less positive experiences of living in a farming community, but let’s consider some of the positives.
1. According to a UF/ IFAS study done in 2018, agriculture provides 31.8 percent of the jobs in Levy County and over $280 million dollars to our local economy. Keep in mind that these dollars are just the direct impact dollars. Add to this all of the indirect goods and services required by the 5000 people who work in and around the farm and you will start getting a picture of the driver that this industry is. Construction, barber shops, and restaurant services, while are obviously not directly driven by agriculture, are highly influenced by the success of farming. The positive economic benefits of this industry reach much further into our communities than a casual glance might first notice.
2. As a land-use (like residential, commercial, or industrial land-use), agriculture contributes a measurable benefit to our environment as well. Farmland across the region provides wildlife habitat and biodiversity, water-recharge and infiltration areas, atmospheric cooling, and an abundance of aesthetically pleasing landscapes. While most farmers are incredible stewards of the environmental resources on which their livelihood depends, did you realize that over 180,000 acres of agricultural land in the Suwannee Valley (>50 percent of farmland) are voluntarily enrolled in Fl. Dept. Of Agriculture and Consumer Services Best Management Practices (BMPs)? These BMPs are scientifically validated practices that farmers implement to ensure that their enterprises are not part of an environmental problem.
3. Another benefit of living in a strong agricultural community, that positively benefits the wallet of every local resident, often goes unnoticed. If you own property in the county, you pay property taxes. When compared to other regions around the state and country, our local municipalities claim that our taxes are among the lowest. So, why might this be? There have been several studies done around the state on the costs of community services (roads, schools, emergency services, sidewalks, streetlights…). When comparing taxes generated by various land uses (residential, commercial, agriculture) to the amount of community services they require, agriculture and some commercial land uses result in a net gain for county governments.
In every study the cost of community services for residential land uses always results in a net loss to the municipality. This means that agriculture not only pays its own way, but it also pays for the services that non-agricultural residents need/ enjoy. Without agriculture our taxes would be higher, or our community services would have to be reduced.
Agriculture is a year-round industry in Levy County involving many different commodities across a wide geographic area. While this is a season (August-November) when we encounter more and larger equipment on the roads, it isn’t the only season. If city driving requires increased attention to traffic lights, distracted drivers, bicycles and pedestrians, country driving requires attention to end-gun car washes, high clearance sprayers, and the occasional escaped cow.
I may be overstating the obvious but based on my observations I still think it needs to be said. Moving a piece of farm equipment down a highway is different than driving your minivan to the store.
• Imagine strapping a 16-foot ladder across the grill of your car and driving through the Walmart parking lot on Saturday morning.
• Imagine pulling off on the shoulder of a county road at 60 MPH, with no springs or shocks, a back seat full of eggs, and no springs or shocks.
• Imagine driving a semi pulling a mobile home through the fast food drive-in.
• Imagine being stuck in the fast lane on the Atlanta By-pass riding a Moped
• Imagine driving a $500,000 Lamborghini at the Bronson racetrack in first gear.
Add these all up and you might be getting close to what it’s like driving a peanut picker down a Levy County backroad. The equipment is big, expensive, and, while legal to operate on the highway, they’re not well suited to it.
Think about how many times you have been surprised by finding a tractor puttering down the road. You crest a hill, round a curve, or look up from a momentary distraction and there it is. Because of the difference in speed between you and it, this massive piece of equipment seems to have appeared out of thin air. Now imagine that you are the one driving the tractor, with all of the above listed parameters, and this shiny red ‘vette is all of the sudden on you. This isn’t a good situation for either party.
There are certainly benefits to living in a rural county. While we may not always recognize it, agriculture and farming play an important role in what makes Levy, Levy. As we enter into this peanut harvest season, and encounter the occasional “picker parade,” or this winter as a rancher moves hay to a pen of heifers, or as fields are prepared for spring planting we all need to slow down a little, offer a generous dose of highway social distancing, and be thankful that we aren’t stuck at a traffic light sucking exhaust fumes.
For more information about any of the topics discussed, contact Mark Warren, Row Crops Agent, UF/IFAS Extension, Levy County, at 352-486-5131 or firstname.lastname@example.org.