MONDAY  MAY 17  11:11 a.m.  Levy, Dixie and Gilchrist counties

Chicken Wars On The Horizon
Popeyes in Chiefland

Popeyes in Chiefland
While the Popeyes Chicken franchise (selling shrimp and other items as well as chicken), has seen phenomenal success since recently opening on Noble Avenue (U.S. Alt 27) in Williston, the franchise is in the permitting application process with the City of Chiefland, acting Chiefland City Manager Laura Cain said Monday (May 17) in a telephone interview.

Popeyes in Chiefland Florida

Popeyes in Chiefland Florida
The franchiser bought the former office site for Central Florida Electric Cooperation on the west side of North Young Boulevard (U.S. Highway 19) just north of U.S. Highway 129 in Chiefland. Meanwhile, the KFC/Pizza Hut construction is moving along at 1105 N. Young Blvd. (U.S. 19), which is on the east side across the street from the future site of Popeyes. (KFC is short for Kentucky Fried Chicken.) Church’s Chicken, on the northwest corner of U.S. 19 and Manatee Springs Road at the Texaco Station in Chiefland continues to thrive. And the fried chicken at Winn-Dixie and Walmart are seeing happy consumers buying there too. Meanwhile, many other eateries, including some convenience stores with chicken wings, in the Tri-County Area of Levy, Dixie and Gilchrist counties offer chicken and more.

Photos By Sharon Hardison © May 17, 2021 at 11:11 a.m.



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CareerSource CLM 2021 State of Workforce Virtual Conference



Federal and state fuel waivers
ease gasoline problems

By FDACS Communications
Published May 12, 2021 at 4:11 p.m.
Late yesterday (Tuesday, May 11), federal and state waivers and emergency rule changes were filed allowing the sale of remaining winter blend fuel that does not currently comply with federal regulations, in an effort to mitigate gasoline supply, price and sales disruptions related to the Colonial Pipeline shutdown and other issues.
     The federal action in this matter shows that on May 11, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency notified states and the U.S. Department of Energy that it issued a waiver under the federal Clean Air Act allowing higher volatility (known as winter blend) gasoline to be transported and sold throughout the current fuel shortage situation.
     This federal action was a required first step before state agencies could take action, including the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services (FDACS).
     The state action in this matter shows that later on May 11, FDACS filed emergency rule change 5JER21-3, bringing state regulations in line with the federal waiver to allow remaining winter blend fuel stocks to be sold, including winter blend fuel held at a Pensacola fuel terminal not for sale due to Clean Air Act non-compliance.
     This emergency rule change, signed and certified by Florida Agriculture Commissioner Nikki Fried and filed yesterday with the Florida Department of State, is intended alleviate some fuel supply and pricing issues particularly in Northwest Florida.
     “Now that the EPA has issued its waiver of federal regulations on gasoline standards, we took immediate action to ensure that remaining winter blend gasoline can make its way to gas stations and into Floridians’ cars,” Commissioner Fried said. “As the state agency regulating gas stations in Florida, we are in close, ongoing contact with the EPA, the U.S. Department of Energy, and the petroleum industry on this matter.
     “We thank our federal, state, and private sector partners for working to help alleviate the gasoline supply and pricing issues caused by numerous factors, from the Colonial Pipeline shutdown to a shortage of fuel truck drivers,” Commissioner Fried continued. “Most importantly, consumers can prevent strain on fuel supplies by not panic-buying gas, not hoarding gas, and not forming long lines at gas stations, and fuel continues to flow around Florida.”


CF cuts ribbon
on innovative apprenticeship lab

By CF Marketing, Public and COmmunity Relations
Published May 11, 2021 at 5:11 p.m.
     OCALA –
College of Central Florida and Lockheed Martin representatives joined elected officials and education, industry, workforce development and community leaders to cut the ribbon and formally open a state-of-the-art apprenticeship lab recently in Ocala.
     “Apprenticeships are a unique way to provide a student with education, career training and a job simultaneously and a valuable opportunity for us to work directly with an employer,” said Dr. Jim Henningsen, CF president. “The synergy created when partners come together in the best interest of their communities is unrivaled.”
     Lockheed Martin’s two-year apprenticeship program trains electronics associates who will solder circuit cards and wiring harnesses used in aerospace and defense systems. The first cohort of apprentices began their work with 80 classroom hours in the new lab before transitioning to Lockheed Martin’s Ocala facility where they receive additional education and complete the program.
     “Our partnership with the College of Central Florida and CareerSource Florida extends our training capabilities and is instrumental in providing a sustainable talent pipeline for our future operations as we strive to help create highly skilled and high-wage career opportunities” said Phil Lowery, director of Lockheed Martin Ocala operations.
     The partnership resulting in today’s announcement began in 2019 when Lockheed Martin launched an initiative to hire and train apprentices across its enterprise over the next five years.    
     CareerSource Citrus Levy Marion, the local workforce development board serving the Ocala area, assists Lockheed Martin with identifying candidates for the apprenticeship program.
     “CareerSource Florida’s partnership with Lockheed Martin, the College of Central Florida and CareerSource Citrus Levy Marion is helping bring in-demand career opportunities to hundreds of local residents, and we’re excited to support the program’s expansion in other communities,” said CareerSource Florida President and CEO Michelle Dennard. 
     Since the start of the program, Lockheed Martin has hired 349 apprentices, 20 of whom started their training in one of three different cohorts at the CF lab since February of this year.
     The two-year program will congratulate its first round of graduates in July 2021 with the next class of apprentices starting May 24. To apply, visit lockheedmartinjobs.com or CareerSource Citrus Levy Marion’s website at careersourceclm.com for contact information.

Exploring Finances
First Time Homebuyer?
Follow These Steps!

Published May 10, 2021 at 11:11 p.m.
     NEWBERRY --
Is homeownership a goal of yours?
     It does offer some benefits, in addition to meeting your basic need for shelter. The equity you build in your home can be a valuable financial asset, and you may get to deduct your interest payments on your taxes. But if you’re a first-time homebuyer, what steps should you take?
     First, make sure the time is right for you in terms of your personal and financial situations. For example, are you fairly confident that your employment is stable and that your earnings won’t decline? Of course, external events can play a role in your decision. A recent study by Morning Consult and Edward Jones found that 12 percent of respondents postponed purchasing a house during the COVID-19 pandemic.
     But if you’re ready and eager for homeownership, consider the following moves:
     • Save for a down payment. The more money you put down for a home, the lower your monthly payments, although there’s also a point at which overly large down payments can be financially unwise. However, if you can make a down payment of more than 20 percent of the purchase price, you can generally avoid having to pay for private mortgage insurance on top of your monthly payments. As a first-time homebuyer, you might qualify for down payment assistance from your local or state housing authority or a nonprofit group.
     • Check your credit score. A higher credit score gives you a better chance for a lower interest rate. You can request a credit report from annualcreditreport.com, and you might be able to get a credit score for free from your bank. If you need to improve your score, you may want to delay your home purchase.
     • Learn how much you qualify for – and how much you should spend. Once you think you’re ready to begin the home-purchasing process, you may want to contact a few lenders to determine the size of the mortgage for which you qualify. Be aware, though, that just because you can get a mortgage of a certain amount, does not necessarily mean that you should. You don’t want to become “house poor” – that is, you don’t want to spend so much on your house payments that you are cash strapped and can’t afford to save for other goals, such as college for your children or a comfortable retirement. You may want to establish a budget for how much you can readily afford to pay for your mortgage each month – and try sticking to it before you buy the house. If you have extra savings, put it toward your down payment.
     • Prepare for unexpected costs. You can plan for your mortgage, utilities, taxes and insurance – but when you own a home, you’ll always encounter unexpected costs. You may need to get a new furnace, repair your roof or face any number of other maintenance issues. To help prepare for these costs, try to build an emergency fund containing three to six months’ worth of living expenses, with the money kept in a liquid, low-risk account. Without such a fund, you might be forced to dip into your long-term investments or take on added debt to pay for these unanticipated expenses.
     Homeownership can be a rewarding experience – and the rewards will be greater when you’ve “done the numbers” and prepared yourself financially.
    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.


Dixie County resolves
to accommodate solar farm placement
Commission meetings
moving back to Cross City

Tammi Clyatt of the Planning and Zoning Department in Dixie County Florida
Tammi Clyatt of the Dixie County Building and Zoning Department reads on Thursday (May 6) the resolution regarding solar farms in Dixie County as a special exception for placement on property with several different zoning designations. This was the second reading and final for the resolution and the first reading for the ordinance. The second reading of the ordinance is slated for the May 20 meeting that starts at 6 p.m. in the meeting room of the Dixie County School Board in Old Town. However, starting with the June 3 meeting, the County Commission is returning to its meeting room in the Dixie County Courthouse in Cross City.

Story and Photo
By Jeff M. Hardison © May 7, 2021 at 3:11 p.m.
     OLD TOWN –
The Dixie County Board of County Commissioners, while serving as the Dixie County Planning and Zoning Board, on Thursday (May 6) unanimously adopted a recommendation in a resolution to themselves, who would then be sitting as the County Commission, to approve an amendment to the Dixie County Land Development Regulations (LDR).
     The change in the text of the LDR adds a definition of “solar farm” and “solar energy system,” as well as noting the special exception in that regard within the following zoning districts – Environmentally Sensitive Areas; Agricultural Zoning District; Rural Residential Zoning District; Residential (Conventional) Single Family Zoning District; Residential, (Mixed) Single Family/Mobile Home Zoning District; Residential, Mobile Home Zoning District; Industrial, Light Warehousing Zoning District; and Industrial Zoning District.
     This was the second and final reading and approval required for that resolution.
     The first reading of the ordinance amending the LDR was heard Thursday. That first reading will be followed by a second reading. The second reading of the ordinance is slated for the May 20 meeting of the County Commission that starts at 6 p.m. in the meeting room of the Dixie County School Board in Old Town.
     People who want to attend County Commission meetings will want to know that starting with the June 3 meeting, the Dixie County Board of County Commissioners is returning to its meeting room in the Dixie County Courthouse in Cross City.
     The Dixie County Commission had been meeting where the School Board meets to allow for space between people in the audience, to reduce the potential of spreading COVID-19.
     Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis suspended local COVID-19 emergency orders Monday (May 3), and he signed a proposal for lawmakers’ approved last week that limits the government's ability to impose mask requirements and other social distancing measures used in response to the global COVID-19 pandemic.
     The Florida governor’s suspension of emergency orders for local public health, however, does not change the advice from the doctors at the United States Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) or the Florida Department of Health (FDOH).
     The CDC and FDOH recommend people get vaccinated against COVID-19. Both groups still advise people to wear facemasks indoors or when they are in large groups outdoors, like at concerts and festivals.
     The governor’s suspension of all local COVID-19 emergency orders met with resistance in some communities, while others accepted it.
     The governor issued the executive order Monday, despite  the state, at that time, having only 28.27 percent of the population fully vaccinated, according to Johns Hopkins COVID-19 data.
     DeSantis signed Florida Senate Bill 2006, which was passed by a majority of the members of the Legislature last week. It becomes effective July 1. The new law forces local government emergency orders to expire after seven days, and they can only be extended for up to 42 days. The law allows the governor to singlehandedly invalidate any local emergency order as well.
     Despite his Monday (May 3) orders, businesses can still mandate patrons wear masks and practice social distancing, and the order does not apply to schools, according to records.
     In Dixie County as of May 5, according to FDOH records, there have been 3,805 people vaccinated against COVID-19. In Gilchrist County as of May 5, according to the FDOH, there have been 3,905 people vaccinated against COVID-19. In Levy County as of May 5, according to the FDOH, there have been 11,216 people vaccinated against COVID-19. by COVID-19.


Store sees progress in Bronson
Diagram of Bronson Florida Family Dollar Store
This diagram by Barry Engineering shows this Family Dollar Store will have 10,500 square-feet, with 34 parking spaces. Another photo provided by the developer showed the dumpster will have a wooden privacy fence and gate to block view of it.

Diagram Provided As A Public Record

By Jeff M. Hardison © May 4, 2021 at 8:11 p.m.
     BRONSON –
The Bronson Town Council Monday night (May 3) unanimously approved the application for a small-scale map amendment and rezoning to commercial from residential zoning build a new Family Dollar Store in Bronson.
     The future store will occupy the space where Francis Akins had his house – between East Hathaway Avenue (U.S. Alt 27), South Court Street and Picnic Street.
     The address is 15 Picnic Street.
     Luis N. Serna of Calvin, Giordano and Associates of Clearwater presented the application for rezoning to the Town Council.
     Serna is the director of planning for the Tampa Bay Region for Calvin, Giordano and Associates. He showed the five town leaders how the comprehensive plan for Bronson shows a conversion of that property on the highway to go from residential to commercial use.
     This property is near other commercial property on the highway, with compatible uses, Serna said.
     A few people spoke against allowing the store to be placed in the area. One woman yelled from her seat rather than going to the podium.
     The 5-0 vote of approval or the rezoning from residential to commercial came from a motion by Vice Mayor Jason Hunt, seconded by Town Councilman Aaron Edmondson, with Mayor Beatrice Roberts, Councilman Tyler Vorhees and Councilman Robert Partin also voting in favor of it.
     Partin voted “No” in a related resolution about the store, saying that he heard how people complained about traffic and parking woes they foresee.
     Also, during the regular May 3 meeting, Stoney Smith said his plan to build a Marathon gas station and convenience store, and Church’s Chicken is moving forward. That structure is under construction at the corner of Hathaway Avenue (U.S. Alt. 27) and Thrasher Drive (State Road 24)
     Late Tuesday afternoon, Smith told HardisonInk.com that he thinks the future fried chicken outlet in Bronson will be well received.
     Speaking of chicken, in Williston, the new Popeyes Chicken is seeing remarkable traffic.
     And the Kentucky Fried Chicken (KFC) outlet in Chiefland is easily identifiable now on U.S. Highway 19 (Main Street) on the east side of the road north of U.S. Highway 129. It is being built in conjunction with the rebuilding of the Pizza Hut that was there, according to what was said by the developer during a meeting of the Chiefland City Commission some months ago.
     And there is the Church’s Chicken at the corner of State Road 320 West and U.S. 19 in Chiefland, where there is also a Greyhound Bus Station.


People aided with housing needs
David Fox of Fred Fox Enterprises Inc.
David Fox of Fred Fox Enterprises Inc. speaks with Gilchrist County Commissioners regarding rehabilitating or replacing certain residences in the county with funding from a Community Development Block Grant.

Story and Photo
By Jeff M. Hardison © May 4, 2021 at 3:11 p.m.
David Fox of Fred Fox Enterprises Inc. led Gilchrist County Commissioners on Monday (May 3) to move forward with helping people improve their residential structures.
     A $750 Community Development Block Grant (CDBG) funded by the Department of Housing and Urban Development and managed by the Florida Department of Economic Opportunity is being utilized by Gilchrist County.
     This CDBG is in the Housing Rehabilitation Category to repair or replace a minimum of 11 low to moderate income owner-occupied homes located in the unincorporated part of Gilchrist County, according to records.
     The CDBG Program requires that all code violations, health and safety items, and Section 8 Housing Standards be addressed on all homes where CDBG funds will be utilized.
     Fox presented a ranking of several residential structures that met all requirements, as determined by the supervisory task force for this CDBG.
     By a unanimous vote of the County Commission, the ranking presented by Fox was accepted. Regarding the first three applications, the County Commission voted as Fox recommended to approve one and deny two.
     A structure in the Bell area was approved for demolition and construction with a cost of $102,700. The new concrete block home will include two bedrooms and one bathroom with 900 square-feet.
     The first two refurbishing projects were too far above the anticipated budget amount to fix them. Fox said lumber costs have skyrocketed recently. There is a potential to try to reduce the level of rehabilitation to potentially be able to help those ranked applicants.
     Meanwhile, Fred Fox Enterprises Inc. is continuing in its role to administer the $750,000 CDBG for housing rehabilitation in Gilchrist County as it moves forward with this project.


Flea Market Fun
Chiefland Farmer's Flea Market in Levy County Florida
The Chiefland Farmer’s Flea Market changes and remains the same. It has fresh vegetables and tools galore, but it has so much more. It is a fun place to walk through and find treasures to buy. And for sellers, it is the place to locate happy buyers. This top photo is a view from the southeast corner, where the fresh vegetables were plentiful Sunday (April 25), as they are very often. On the northwest corner of the huge, covered area, there are all sorts of tools and gadgets, all at flea-market prices.

Chiefland Farmer's Flea Market in Levy County Florida
There are aisles of items under the roof of the Flea Market, and here is a sign from the Blue Aisle. Check out the Chiefland Farmer’s Flea Market. Check out the ads on all seven pages of HardisonInk.com. Click on ads to go to those other websites.
Photos By Jeff M. Hardison © April 28, 2021 at 9:11 a.m.


Florida Commissioner of Agricutlre Nikki Fried  HardisonInk.com
DACS celebrates one year of Florida’s
state hemp program,
$370 million in economic impact

By DACS Communications
Published April 27, 2021 at 11:11 p.m.
Today, (Tuesday, April 27), marks the one-year anniversary of Florida’s state hemp program, overseen by the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services (FDACS).
     The department and its Office of Cannabis manages and regulates Florida’s hemp program and cannabis products, including CBD. Of the anniversary, Agriculture Commissioner Nikki Fried offered the following statement:
     “Florida’s state hemp program is leading the way in creating great jobs, safe and useful products, and a bright future for this new industry. It’s a great crop for Florida’s farmers with the potential for over 25,000 uses including textiles, biocomposite building materials, biodegradable packaging products, and food and medicinal products like CBD,” Commissioner Fried said. “In its first year alone, hemp in Florida has created an estimated $370 million economic impact, supported over 9,000 jobs, and generated over $17 million in federal, state, and local tax revenue. In year two, we will increase multicultural public education and outreach on the benefits of hemp, and supporting hemp producers, processors, and retailers in meeting consumer needs and increasing demand. We will also advance research and testing, ensuring Florida Hemp products meet the rigorous quality and safety standards that the law requires and consumers deserve. I’m proud of our department’s work on this new green economic driver, and I believe that Floridians will enjoy the benefits of this commodity for generations to come. The sky’s the limit for Florida Hemp and we’re very excited about year two.”
     Hemp in Florida: Since FDACS began accepting applications to grow industrial hemp on April 27, 2020, Florida has approved more than 800 hemp cultivation permits for farmers in 65 of Florida’s 67 counties, with more than 30,000 acres approved for planting. Commissioner Nikki Fried has been a consistent champion of Florida’s emerging $370 million hemp industry. After the 2018 Farm Bill removed prohibitions on industrial hemp in place since 1937, Commissioner Fried worked with the Florida Legislature in 2019 to pass historic state hemp program legislation. In 2019, Fried appointed the state’s first-ever Cannabis Director and created the state’s first-ever Hemp Advisory Committee, and FDACS hosted five workshops and public hearings across Florida on state hemp rulemaking, worked ahead of the USDA to finalize rule development, and provided feedback to the USDA on its draft rules. On April 16, 2020, the USDA approved Florida’s state hemp program, clearing the way for growers to begin cultivation on April 27, 2020.
     More information about growing hemp in Florida may be found at the FDACS Office of Cannabis website.


CEP and Duke Energy receive
Bridging the Gap workforce awards

By Laura Byrnes, APR, CPRC
Communications Manager
CareerSource Citrus Levy Marion
Published April 22, 2021 at 4:11 p.m.
     OCALA –
Duke Energy and the Ocala/Metro Chamber and Economic Partnership (CEP) were recognized today (Thursday, April 22) with Bridging the Gap awards for going above and beyond to build the regional workforce by closing gaps in skills, training and opportunity.
     The awards were presented by CareerSource Citrus Levy Marion CEO Rusty Skinner at the State of the Workforce Virtual Conference: Recover, Redesign, Rework. The conference was put on by CareerSource CLM in partnership with the Ocala Human Resource Management Association.
     Skinner said that Duke and the CEP earned honors for their “strong commitment to supporting the talent supply needs of businesses through fostering collaboration and communication between business and education.”
     The State of the Workforce Conference brought together businesses, community and public partners, education leaders and HR professionals, to identify ways the region’s businesses may begin to recover from the impacts of the pandemic on the workforce, redesign how the workplace may function moving forward, and rework ways to build the talent pipeline to meet in-demand and emerging needs.
     Two companies were recognized this year because the 2020 conference was canceled due to the pandemic.
     Skinner said that among its many “K to Career” educational and workforce development initiatives, Duke provided CareerSource CLM two grants to produce videos that help power awareness of public schools’ career and technical education programs as well as CTE programs offered by the College of Central Florida.
     Dorothy Pernu, Duke’s manager of government and community relations, said Duke Energy is “committed to ensuring that our organization has a workforce development strategy that enables the company to build a skilled, qualified and very talented diverse pipeline.”
      “We couldn’t accomplish that without CareerSource CLM, our school boards throughout Citrus, Levy and Marion counties as well as our state College of Central Florida and so many others,” Pernu said in accepting the award on behalf of Duke.
     In recognizing the CEP, Skinner said that over the past several years the organization has been “active in both education and creating the career opportunities that reward that education to our area students and job seekers.”
     Among myriad career education initiatives that lead to a “talented and trained workforce,” Skinner lauded the CEP’s longstanding partnership with CF, Marion County Public Schools, and the Public Education Foundation of Marion County as well as CareerSource CLM and others to plan support the annual Youth Career Expo.
     Kevin T. Sheilley, CEP president and CEO, said that “being able to partner businesses with our schools and education providers has been the key to success.”
     Sheilley accepted the Bridging the Gap award along with Kevin McDonald, a longtime member of the CEP board of directors including its past chairman.
     Sheilley said that it was McDonald who “pushed, encouraged, shoved, required us to look at education and how we engaged businesses.”
     The inaugural Bridging the Gap award was presented in 2019 to Capris Furniture, the Marion County Board of County Commissioners Fleet Management Department, Raney’s Truck Center, and R+L Global Logistics for helping drive the success of the region’s locally based Commercial Driving Program offered by Marion Technical College.

Levy County seeks new county attorney
Levy County Florida
Levy County Attorney Anne Bast-Brown speaks to the County Commission on Tuesday (April 20).

Story and Photos
By Jeff M. Hardison © April 21, 2021 at 3:11 p.m.
Levy County Attorney Anne Bast-Brown announced she is retiring June 30, and the Levy County Board of County Commissioners on Tuesday (April 20) began the process to find a replacement.
     County Commissioner Mike Joyner was the first member of that five-person board to help step up the plan to advertise by two weeks before the planned start – two weeks hence on May 4.
     It was not by a motion, though, but instead by consensus that Joyner was joined in the idea by County Commission Chairman John Meeks and Commissioners Rock Meeks, Matt Brooks and Lilly Rooks.
     The matter came to light during an informational item from County Coordinator Wilbur Dean. He was going through the prioritization of projects related to the legal department of the County Commission. During that discussion, too, Brooks mentioned the idea of hiring helpers or other attorneys to get more done between now and July 1.
     Apparently, the current office for the county attorney is small, because Chairman Meeks mentioned the unlikelihood of fitting two attorneys in there at the same time for a transition or for some lawyer to help Brown.
     Despite some mentioned preference to wait for an approved advertisement, the five people agreed to get moving on the process for replacing Brown as of Tuesday. Staff is working under that direction.
     In other news from the meeting, a woman complained that her property has a steep incline next to a county road in the Williston area, and vehicles driven by suspected drunken drivers and distracted drivers crash through her fence. Shattered glass is difficult to get out of the pasture, she said.
     She fears for her horses, that may be hit be crash vehicles or might leave the pasture through a broken fence. She complained about money she had to spend for fence repairs.
     The Levy County Road Department is addressing the issue by looking at the matter, again.

Joyce Wilson
Joyce Wilson of Unity Family Community Center of Gainesville, founded by Pastor Willie Battles of Williston in 2002, tells the County Commission about a mentoring program that helps 900 students in Levy County. UCC is among the many partners with the Levy County Prevention Coalition.

Tish Whitehurst of Levy County TDC
Tisha Whitehurst of the Levy County Tourist Development Council reads a proclamation to declare May 2-8 as National Travel and Tourism Week in Levy County. The County Commission agreed and voted 5-0 to make the proclamation.

Bobby McCallum
Levy County Sheriff Bobby McCallum accepts a 5-0 vote of approval for an increase of $53,200 to his budget due to needed expenses that were beyond the budgeted amount. At the start of the meeting Tuesday (April 20), Commissioner Mike Joyner mentioned in the opening prayer for the healing of the deputy injured in a crash recently. Soon after the start of the meeting, County Commission Chairman John Meeks reminded people it has been three years since two active deputies with the Gilchrist County Sheriff’s Office were murdered in a Trenton restaurant.

Rod Hastings of Levy County
Levy County Solid Waste Department Administrative Director Rod Hastings presents a PowerPoint program to show the County Commission information about this county’s department for handling garbage and recycling. Hastings showed old equipment that has been replaced. He showed the cost for taxpayers as well as the services offered. And he compared that in Levy County with what is offered in Alachua, Dixie and Gilchrist counties. He mentioned that Gilchrist County is adopting some methods from Levy County. A recent meeting in Dixie County showed that neighboring county may be revising its services to be more like Levy County. Hastings repeatedly noted his appreciation for the people who work in his department, and for many other county staff members who help support the operations to serve the residents and visitors of Levy County. Hastings' presentation included information about the three satellite collection sites, which have vastly improved the ability for people to bring their own household garbage to those spots. Trailers are not allowed there. Commercial haulers and residents with trailers full of garbage still need to go to the Bronson site.


FDACS issues denial
of Aldicarb usage in Florida

By FDACS Office of Communications
Published April 21, 2021 at 12:11 p.m.
Today (Wednesday, April 21), the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services denied AgLogic Chemical LLC’s state pesticide registration application for the pesticide aldicarb on citrus crops in the state of Florida.
     The pesticide registrant’s application failed to comply with requirements of federal law, specifically Section 7(a)(2) of 16 U.S.C. § 1536(a)(2), and therefore does not meet the requirements of Florida state law, specifically 487.041(2), Florida Statutes.
      “Florida’s vital citrus industry has faced so many challenges, from natural disasters and production issues to the terrible effects of citrus greening. I stand shoulder to shoulder with our citrus growers and we’re proud to support them, fighting for state funding and facilitating innovative new practices as they produce our state’s signature crop,” said Florida Agriculture Commissioner Nikki Fried. “While there are promising new horizons for fighting citrus greening, like recent breakthroughs at UF/IFAS on genetic resistance, aldicarb poses an unacceptable risk to human, animal, and environmental health in Florida, is one of the world’s most toxic pesticides, and is banned in more than 100 countries. The registrant’s application does not meet the requirements of state law, and we must therefore deny the registration of aldicarb for use in the State of Florida. I look forward to working with our citrus growers, the EPA, and all partners to continue supporting Florida citrus in an environmentally conscious way.”
     Aldicarb is an N-methyl carbamate insecticide primarily used as a nematicide. Responsible for the worst known outbreak of pesticide poisoning in North America, aldicarb is one of 28 active pesticide ingredients deemed extremely hazardous (Class Ia) by the World Health Organization, the WHO’s highest hazard designation. According to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), aldicarb can cause weakness, blurred vision, headache, nausea, tearing, sweating, and tremors, and high doses can cause death by paralyzing the respiratory system. The pesticide has been banned in 125 countries.
     In 2010, the EPA phased out aldicarb’s use in the United States under an agreement with the pesticide’s manufacturer, with citrus and potatoes phased out first. According to the EPA, the agency’s 2010 risk assessment “indicates that aldicarb no longer meets the Agency’s rigorous food safety standards and may pose unacceptable dietary risks, especially to infants and young children,” and to protect the food supply, “EPA is initiating action to terminate uses of aldicarb, and also plans to revoke aldicarb tolerances.”
     On Jan. 12, the EPA granted approval for aldicarb’s use in Florida on up to 100,000 acres of oranges and grapefruit for three years through 2023. The product was to be used as a nematicide to combat the invasive pest Asian citrus psyllid, which transmits the citrus greening bacterial pathogen. This approval was challenged in a lawsuit filed by the Center for Biological Diversity, Farmworker Association of Florida, and Environmental Working Group. Pesticides must be registered with the State of Florida through the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services, and must receive approval by the department for use in Florida.
     On April 19, the EPA acknowledged in its filing with the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit that “it did not make an Endangered Species Act (ESA) effects determination prior to conditionally approving the use of aldicarb on oranges and grapefruit in Florida.” Therefore, the department has determined that the registrant’s application does not meet the requirements of current state and federal law for the below reasons. The applicant will have the opportunity to request an administrative hearing to challenge the department’s determination.
     The Registrant’s application does not satisfy the substantive and procedural requirements set forth in Section 7(a)(2) of the Endangered Species Act, 16 U.S.C. § 1536(a)(2), because no determination was made whether the EPA registration orders may affect protected endangered and threatened species nor was a complete consultation conducted prior to the issuance of the final order granting the conditional registration.
The Registrant’s application does not satisfy the substantive and procedural requirements as set forth in section 487.041(2), Florida Statutes, because the Registrant’s application did not comply with federal law requirements.
     "Aldicarb is one of the most dangerous neurotoxic chemicals found anywhere in the world, so toxic it was banned in the U.S. and more than 100 other countries and is one of the few pesticides classified as “extremely hazardous” by the World Health Organization. It can lead to illness and death in adults, children, and animals, and has no place in Florida's food, water, or soil," said Deborah Foote, Acting Chapter Director at Sierra Club Florida. "Despite the Trump EPA approving its use on citrus, Commissioner Fried has taken a courageous stand by denying its use in Florida, sending a clear message that the health of our farmworkers, public health, child development, and environmental quality will not be compromised by approval of extremely hazardous chemicals in our state."
      “Aldicarb presents a serious threat to the health and wellbeing of Florida’s farmworkers who harvest our citrus crops and for those families who live near the groves,” said Antonio Tovar, Principal Investigator at the Farmworker Association of Florida and Policy Associate at the National Family Farm Coalition. “Producing and harvesting our food should not mean being subject to illness or death from toxic pesticides. That’s why we support the wise decision of Agriculture Commissioner Nikki Fried to ban this chemical’s use in our state. We wish other politicians held the same respect for science when developing and implementing public policies.”
      “The science is clear, there is simply no way aldicarb can be used without putting small children, farmworkers, or imperiled wildlife at risk,” said Dr. Nathan Donley, Senior Scientist at the Center for Biological Diversity. “Even extremely low doses in water or on food can have dangerous impacts on brain development in young children. In a state fully dependent on its groundwater, the last thing Floridians need is a chemical like aldicarb that is known to readily leach through soils into drinking water supplies and persist for years.”
     Florida Department of Agriculture Commissioner Fried has been a strong advocate for Florida’s citrus industry, helping secure vital citrus funding in the 2020-21 state budget including $8 million for citrus research projects, $7.4 million for citrus health and fighting pests and diseases, and $19.2 million to pay outstanding Citrus Canker claims to Lee County. In the 2021-22 state budget, Fried has requested $14 million to support Florida citrus production, health, and research.
     Fried also helped establish a state direct-support organization to manage the Citrus Research and Field Trials (CRAFT) program planting 5,000 new acres of citrus groves using experimental techniques, and fought against the Trump Administration’s decision to allow imported Chinese citrus in direct competition with Florida citrus.


March jobless rate increase ‘deceiving,’
report shows recovery well underway

By Laura Byrnes, APR, CPRC
Communications Manager
CareerSource Citrus Levy Marion
Published April 16, 2021 at 5:11 p.m.
     OCALA –
The unemployment rate in the CareerSource Citrus Levy Marion region was 5.6 percent in March, up 0.3 percentage point over the month but a full percentage point lower than the region’s year ago rate of 6.6 percent.
     The labor force was 209,326, down by 84 across all three counties, or lower than 0.1 percent, compared to March 2020.
     According to preliminary employment numbers for March, released today by the Florida Department of Economic Opportunity, there were 11,811 unemployed in the region, an increase of 752 since February but 1,958 fewer than a year ago.
     The number of employed in the region was 197,515, an increase of 1,083 over the month and 1,874 more than in March 2020.
     Levy County continues to hold the lowest jobless rate in the region at 5.0 percent, up 0.3 percentage point over the month; Marion County followed with a rate of 5.5 percent, also an increase of 0.3 percentage point; and Citrus County’s rate was 6.4 percent, likewise an increase of 0.3 percentage point. Florida’s not seasonally adjusted jobless rate – a measure that matches the way local rates are calculated – was 5.3 percent, up 0.2 percentage point over the month and 0.3 percentage point higher than March 2020.
     Rusty Skinner, CEO of CareerSource CLM, said the report indicates the economic recovery “continues to be well underway.”
      “Strong labor force and employment expansion over the previous month are a solid indicator of the recovery of our businesses,” Skinner said. “The percentage increase in the unemployment rate is deceiving in this situation. While the rate increased, it indicated that more people were actually looking for work than the market could absorb.”
     To further emphasize the growth, Skinner pointed to the increase in the number of employed noting that “these numbers were larger than the same time lasty year, at the very start of the pandemic.”
     Additionally, Skinner said that the Ocala metropolitan statistical area, which covers all of Marion County, continued to lead the state in fastest and highest growth in key industries and that the Homosassa Springs MSA, which covers all of Citrus County, posted the fastest over-the- month job growth rate.
     Here is a breakdown of the March jobs numbers for each county:
     Citrus County’s labor force in March expanded by 1,353 to 48,994, the number of employed increased by 1,109 to 45,866 and the number of unemployed inched up by 244 to 3,128. Compared to March 2020 when the unemployment rate was 7.8 percent, the labor force grew by 252, there are 932 more employed and 680 fewer unemployed.
     Levy County’s labor force increased slightly over the month by 66 to 17,409, at 16,533 the number of those with jobs increased by 9, and the number of jobless rose by 57 to 876. Over the year, when the jobless rate was 5.9 percent, those numbers represent 278 more in the labor force, an increase of 409 employed and decrease of 131 unemployed.
     Marion County’s labor force grew by 416 to 142,923, the number of those with jobs fell by 35 to 135,116, and the number of unemployed increased by 451 to 7,807. Compared to the same time last year, when the jobless rate was 6.2 percent, the labor force contracted by 614, the number of employed expanded by 533 and the number of jobless dropped by 1,147.
     Nonfarm employment in the Ocala metro area was 107,500, a decrease of 1,500 jobs (-1.4 percent) over the year but just 35 fewer than in February.
     For the second consecutive month, the Ocala MSA posted both the fastest annual job growth rate compared to all the metro areas in the state in manufacturing at 4.2 percent and the second highest annual job growth in manufacturing with 400 new jobs for a total of 9,900 jobs.
     Additionally, the Ocala metro tied for the second fastest annual job growth rate compared to all the metro areas in the state in trade, transportation, and utilities (+1.9 percent) in March 2021 as well as the second highest annual job growth with 500 new jobs for a total of 26,500 jobs.
     Both the manufacturing and trade, transportation, and utilities industry sectors grew faster in the Ocala metro area than statewide over the year.
     Professional and business services also gained over the year, adding 400 jobs for a total of 10,000 jobs.
     Leisure and hospitality (-1,300 jobs); education and health services (-600 jobs); government (-500 jobs); other services (-200 jobs); information (-100 jobs); and financial activities (-100 jobs) lost jobs over the year.
     In March, nonfarm employment in the Homosassa Springs MSA, which includes all of Citrus County, was 33,300, unchanged from a year ago and 700 more jobs than in February, a 2.1 percent increase representing the fastest job growth rate over the month among all Florida metros.
     Citrus County tied with Osceola County with the third highest jobless rate; Marion County moved from 19th to 11th highest rate, tying with Orange and Taylor counties; and Levy County tied with Charlotte and Pasco counties with the 23rd highest rate.
     Among the states metro areas, the Homosassa Springs MSA held the third highest rate, the Ocala MSA posted the sixth highest rate. With an unemployment rate of 6.6 percent, the Villages MSA, which includes a portion of Marion County, held the second highest rate.
     The region’s preliminary employment summary for April is scheduled to be released on Friday, May 21.


USDA helps dairy ranchers and others
Commissioner Nikki Fried comments
on $330 million in USDA support
for specialty crops, dairy donations,
and low-income produce incentives

By FDACS Communications
Published April 16, 2021 at 4:11 p.m.
Recently, the U.S. Department of Agriculture announced the availability of more than $330 million to help agricultural producers and organizations in the food supply chain recover from the financial impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic.
     Part of the USDA’s Pandemic Assistance for Producers initiative launched in March, the funding includes $169.9 million for the Specialty Crop Block Grant Program (SCBGP) and $75 million for the Gus Schumacher Nutrition Incentive Program (GusNIP), which assists low-income consumers purchase fresh fruit and vegetables. USDA also informed dairy producers and processors about ongoing plans for the Dairy Donation Program (DDP). Agriculture Commissioner Nikki Fried applauded the availability of this funding and encouraged Florida producers to apply, if eligible.
     Debt Relief for Socially Disadvantaged Farmers: It was also announced that the American Rescue Plan includes provisions for USDA to pay up to 120 percent of loan balances, as of January 1, 2021, for Farm Service Agency (FSA) loans for any socially disadvantaged agriculture producer with qualifying FSA loans. Additional information can be found at Farmers.gov/AmericanRescuePlan.
     Florida Background: Growing over 300 seasonal commodities, Florida is known as the “Specialty Crop State” and leads the nation in production of oranges, grapefruit, cucumbers, bell peppers, watermelon, and snap beans, and ranks second in production of strawberries, tomatoes, sweet corn, avocados, tangerines, and cabbage, among other seasonal crops. Florida’s fruit, vegetable, and citrus crops all produce over $1 billion each in annual sales revenue, and together directly support 34,950 jobs. In the opening months of the COVID-19 pandemic, Florida’s specialty crop producers faced $522 million in estimated losses due to reduced demand and weakened economy.
     “COVID-19 caused serious financial hardship for so many of Florida’s agriculture producers, especially our seasonal crop growers and dairy producers who struggled to get their products to consumers. At the same time, food insecurity has risen dramatically in Florida, with 3.5 million Floridians – 1 million of them children – facing chronic hunger. This new round of funding will provide still-needed relief for our proud growers, support our farmworkers and food businesses, and help our families afford healthy nutrition – all in a broad, equitable way,” said Commissioner Fried. “I thank the President and Secretary Vilsack for these resources that can really benefit hungry families and a huge part of Florida’s agriculture industry, and for supporting socially disadvantaged farmers as we fight this pandemic.”
Program details and deadlines are listed below.
     Specialty Crop Block Grant Program: USDA’s Agricultural Marketing Service (AMS) is announcing $169.9 million for the Specialty Crop Block Grant Program (SCBGP) to fund innovative projects designed to support the expanding specialty crop food sector and explore new market opportunities for U.S. food and agricultural products. The total includes $72.9 million available as part of the annual Farm Bill funding for the program, and an additional $97 million available as emergency funding for applications under this solicitation, provided in the Consolidated Appropriations Act of 2021 due to COVID -19 impacts to the food system.
     Grant project funding awarded as part of pandemic assistance can also go to organizations to assist farmworkers (e.g., for PPE and vaccination costs), projects to fund farmers, food businesses, and other relevant entities to respond to risks and supply chain disruption. The SCBGP funds are allocated to U.S. states and territories based on a formula that considers both specialty crop acreage and production value. Interested applicants should apply directly through their state departments of agriculture. A listing of state contacts is available on the USDA website. In Florida, contact Josh Johnson, Grant Manager, at (850) 617-7340 or SpecialtyCrop@freshfromflorida.com.
      Applications must be submitted electronically through www.grants.gov by 11:59 p.m. Eastern Time on June 11, 2021. Any grant application submitted after the due date will not be considered unless the applicant provides documentation of an extenuating circumstance that prevented their timely submission of the grant application. For more information about grant eligibility, visit the SCBGP website.
     Fruits and Vegetables for Low-Income Consumers: Active Gus Schumacher Nutrition Incentive Program (GusNIP) and Food Insecurity Nutrition Incentive (FINI) grantees may request funding to allow them to address critical food and nutrition security needs of low-income communities, enhance the resilience of food and healthcare systems impacted by the pandemic, and maximize funds reaching participants in communities in need, through $75 million invested by USDA’s National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA) as directed by the Consolidated Appropriations Act of 2021.
     Eligibility to receive a GusCRR grant is limited to organizations with a current active GusNIP nutrition incentive grant, GusNIP produce prescription grant, or FINI grant that began prior to December 27, 2020. An eligible organization may submit only one GusCRR nutrition incentive grant application and one produce prescription application. NIFA will reach out directly to GusCRR eligible applicants with additional details and a copy of the Request for Applications (RFA).
     Dairy Donations: The Dairy Donation Program (DDP) will facilitate the timely donation of dairy products to nonprofit organizations that distribute food to persons in need and prevent and minimize food waste. As the statute allows retroactive reimbursements of donations made before donation and distribution plans are approved, USDA provided advance notice of the minimum provisions to be included in the program, to encourage the dairy industry to process and donate surplus milk supplies as the spring surplus milk production season progresses. For more information, visit ams.usda.gov/notices.

CF licensed to cultivate
hemp at its Vintage Farm Campus

CF First State College in Florida allowed to grow hemp  HardisonInk.com

Story and Photo Provided By
CF Marketing, Public and Community Relations
Published April 15, 2021 at 9:11 a.m.
     OCALA —
The College of Central Florida has been approved by the Florida Department of Agriculture’s Division of Plant Industry to produce industrial hemp at its Vintage Farm Campus in Ocala.
     It is the first license of its kind approved for a state college in Florida.
     The cultivating of hemp will be utilized as an educational tool by the college’s Agribusiness program to complement its existing fruit and vegetable production, greenhouse and nursery production, as well as livestock production facilities. Hemp production will focus seed germination, soil, water, nutrient and light requirements, proper pruning techniques, pest management, harvesting and curing of the crop.
     Industrial hemp is a variety of Cannabis sativa and has many uses, including food and feed intended for animal consumption, paper fiber, clothing, and many industrial applications. It contains very low trace amounts of THC, the main psychoactive ingredient in the plant, and varying amounts of Cannabinoid compounds, most notably CBD and CBG, which may have therapeutic properties, according to federal regulations.
      “Due to statewide and local interest in the burgeoning hemp industry in Florida, and the uniqueness of the college’s Vintage Farm Campus facilities and areas of study, it was a natural fit to add to the curriculum of the Agribusiness program at CF,” said Tavis Douglass, Agribusiness program manager. “Because hemp is a relatively unknown crop in our climate, not much is known of how it will perform. Therefore, we will be testing and growing plants under various growing conditions. Additionally, our program will focus on hemp products that may have use in agricultural sectors such as our local livestock and equine industries.”



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