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12,000-plus unique visitors
go to daily news website

‘Here’s To 10 Years!’ theme continues
First Quarter Traffic For
Graph by cPanel

Story and Videos
By Jeff M. Hardison © April 1, 2020 at 11:10 a.m.
All Rights Reserved
     THE WORLD –
The daily news website named continues in its 10th year of existence with figures from March 1 through March 31 at par with high website traffic established in the past several years, according to the two independent third-party robotic measuring devices named Google Analytics and cPanel.


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     Jeff M. Hardison, owner, publisher and sole proprietor doing business as shared his perspective on some matters with his tenth year as the owner of this business.
     “March was a rough month for all people on planet Earth,” Hardison said, “Humans continued facing a virus that makes people sick and kills them. As of March 31, for instance, there were 85 people in Florida who died from COVID-19, according to the Florida Department of Health.
     “As for the news website,” he continued, “there were more than 12,000 unique visitors to it in March and we experienced in excess of 1.6 million hits.”
     March 2020 figures reflect the typically high amount of traffic to the daily news website. In its tenth year, the daily news website continues showing traffic that is attractive to advertisers.

2019 Monthly Averages
Unique Visitors -- 11,204
Number of Visits -- 27,293
Pages Viewed -- 103,257
Hits -- 1,261,331 (about 1.3 million)

    The 2018 (“Keeping It Great In Year Eight”) monthly average of 1.3 million hits remained stable through “Keeping It Fine” in 2019, as did the measures across the various realms, according to the independent third-party robotic measuring devices named Google Analytics and cPanel. Now, it is the theme “Here’s To 10 Years” and the traffic remains significant.
     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, which began on Feb. 1 of 2020.
     Likewise, the business owner said he extremely appreciates the business owners and other interests who buy ads on
     The numbers for March of 2020 are shown in the graphic at the top of this story.
     The first gauge reflects Unique Visitors. 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 never breaks stride in its tenth year of existence, the theme in this 12-month span is “Here’s To 10 Years.”

    The March total of unique visitors 12,149.
     “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 March monthly amount of computer addresses visiting the daily news website each month, 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 our advertisers who sponsor the daily news website. Well, the short-term advertisers are paying more, but the annual ads are the same. As for the national ads at the bottom of the pages, that varies by traffic and is through my broker for those ads.”

     Another measure of traffic is the number of visits.
     In March, the number was 32,430 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 March was 101,941. There are ads on each page, and the readers see those ads.

     The March total of hits was almost 1.6 million (1,571,650), which is higher than the monthly average of 1.3 million for 2019.
     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 may equal four “hits.” Like all of the gauges, this is a measure of traffic.
     All of the measurements combined show the daily news website is continuing to progress and grow each year.
     “These figures mirror the fact that many people each day use as a source for information,” Hardison said. “And they return daily. If your product or service is better than the competitors’ products and services, then you will have better odds of being the manufacturer, farmer or service provider of first choice in any market.” continues to provide readers, viewers and listeners (yes, the videos on have sound) 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 on occasion.
     People know there are no bounds for where coverage will go.
     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.
     “There is an intangible result,” Hardison said. “A free press serves a free society. This is a cornerstone of American democracy. The benefits to local communities from this broader truth are not calculable so much on raw dollars as they are in the spirit of America.” 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 and more. 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.

     The Florida native said his wife is a vital part of the reason for such a high success rate for the website.
     "I can't say enough about my wife Sharon Hardison," Jeff Hardison said. "She does so much for me, that it is incredible. Sharon is the multiple award-winning graphic artist who does most of the ads. She is my bookkeeper who provides information to my accountant, too. One thing I need to bring people's attention to is our archive page. 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 If you see any video you want to watch, click on it.”
     There are a couple of different main sites for sites with videos by Jeff M. Hardison. Here are two links – click HERE for that main site and click HERE for the other main site.

This 2014 video of a bullriding event at Carter's Arena in Levy County is among the videos, as an example.

This 2013 video of Trenton High School defeating Chiefland High School in football is among the videos, as another example.

And here is the March 5, 2020 video of the selection of the winner of a $50 gift certificate from BubbaQue's, which was chosen by one the mascots for -- Inky the cat, as a more recent example.

ADVERTISEMENT KEEPS IT GOING 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" is the best daily news website that covers Levy, Dixie and Gilchrist counties (and beyond). 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.



Watch Out For Financial Scams
Related To COVID-19

Published March 30, 2020 at 8:10 p.m.
     NEWBERRY --
On one hand, the COVID-19 has brought out the best in us.
     People across the country are pitching in to help others, from providing protective masks to health care workers to holding video chats with confined residents of assisted living homes to simply buying gift cards to support local businesses. On the other hand, a small number of bad actors are taking advantage of the situation to try to defraud people. How can you guard against these virus-related scams?
     For starters, be aware of three common scams connected to the coronavirus:
      • Websites claiming to help and track the pandemic – Look out for websites that claim to help you work remotely or provide financial resources to the afflicted. These sites may try to trick you into giving up personal information, donate money or load malware onto your computer. Don’t trust information technology (IT) “helpdesk” agents you don’t know. And check out any obscure organization claiming to help virus victims. You can easily find many legitimate groups that actually work to alleviate suffering, and that deserve your support. To find these reputable organizations, go to an online clearinghouse, such as, which rates thousands of groups on their financial health, accountability and transparency. 
     • Products claiming to prevent or cure the disease – When there’s a real treatment or vaccination for COVID-19, it will be big news, and you will hear about it. Until then, ignore any claims for pills, potions, prescriptions or other products that promise “miracle” cures. Not only will they waste your money, but, if you click on attachments from “phishing” emails advertising these fake treatments, you could end up supplying crooks with sensitive data, such as your online account logins, passwords, and credit card and bank account details. You can find a great deal of health information on the virus at the Center for Disease Control website (, of course, but if you or your loved ones are feeling ill, please contact a physician.
     • “Risk-free” or “guaranteed” investments –   The coronavirus has caused two separate, but related, areas of stress. The first is the health concern, and the second is the financial/investment component. The enormous volatility of the financial markets has caused much concern among investors, and scammers are seizing the opportunity to offer “risk-free” or “guaranteed” investments “perfect” for this particular time. Again, responding to these types of offers can bring you nothing but trouble. All investments carry risk of one type or another, and they typically don’t come with guarantees, although some do offer significant protection of principal. In these turbulent times, your best move is to stick with a long-term investment strategy based on your goals, risk tolerance and time horizon.
     Here’s one more suggestion: Warn your elderly relatives about the increased potential for scams. The elderly always are the most susceptible to fraud, and now, when they may be more isolated than before, they may well be even more vulnerable. So, make sure you’re talking to these loved ones, and urge them not to make any sudden, out-of-the-ordinary financial moves.
     Even in normal times, it’s regrettable that we have to be on the alert for scam artists – and it’s even more unfortunate during a period of national crisis. However, by being reasonably vigilant, and by taking the proper precautions, you can avoid taking on the “collateral damage” that can occur in this environment
     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.


CFEC provides updates
related to COVID-19

By Madison Redd, CFEC Communications Specialist
Published March 30, 2020 at 3:10 p.m.
Central Florida Electric Cooperative is not processing cut offs due to non-payment to help Members affected by the COVID-19.
     The electric cooperative leaders hope this will help relieve some of the financial stress members may be experiencing.
     Beware of scammers claiming to be from CFEC threatening disconnection if payments are not made.
     CFEC asks that Members pay what they can whenever possible. These payments will help to reduce the total energy bill and help to prevent increased hardship once normal business resumes.
     All CFEC office lobbies are closed to reduce potential exposure to the Coronavirus for our members and employees. Members can still make payments and conduct all business via the drive-through window at the Chiefland and Cross City offices.
     CFEC strongly encourages the public to conduct business remotely if possible. Payment methods such as the online payment portal, mobile app, telephone payment system, auto draft, and through the United States Postal System all offer safer alternatives to visiting CFEC offices directly.
     In the meantime, CFEC encourages Members to conserve energy wherever possible. Cutting back and making small changes can go a long way in keeping your bill low while finances are stretched thin.
    Here are a few conservation tips your family can use:
    • Energy conservation can be as easy as turning off lights and appliances when you don’t need them. Energy-intensive appliances such as dryers and dishwashers can also be used less by hang drying clothes or hand washing dishes.
    • Heating and cooling account for the largest percentage of energy usage. Whenever possible, reduce the intensity and frequency at which you use your heating and cooling systems. Take advantage of overcast mornings as an opportunity to turn your air conditioner down.
    • Reduce water heating expenses by temporarily turning down the thermostat on your water heater.
    As always, please direct any questions or concerns about utility services to CFEC representatives by email at or by phone at 352-493-2511.
     For questions about Coronavirus, the Florida Department of Health has established a 24/7 hotline at 1-866-779-6121.
     CFEC thanks everyone for their patience as each person works to minimize safety risks for CFEC members and employees.


NCBDC director shares
information about business
resources related to COVID-19

By Nature Coast Business Development Council
Executive Director David Pieklik
March 28, 2020 at 4:10 p.m.
     INGLIS –
While Levy County has had one positive COVID-19 case as of March 27, people along the Nature Coast have seen the impact from the pandemic in communities across the state and nation as well.
     Information has been rapidly distributed about preventing spread of the virus, and potential help for those impacted. For affected businesses and employees, it can be overwhelming figuring out what to do to keep operating or offset financial strain. The Nature Coast Business Development Council continues to assist employers and employees Levy County with overcoming concerns, including through a resource page at
     Included are links to several key loan programs to help businesses with everything from payroll and working capital, to equipment financing and paid leave. What follows is a brief explanation of some of these programs, from eligibility to process. We will assist businesses in need to ensure our economy remains strong and grows stronger through this.
START HERE: Damage assessment survey
     Businesses are first asked to complete a damage assessment survey to gauge impact of the virus locally and potentially open the door for federal disaster relief. The online form-based survey takes five minutes to complete and is available at
STATE ASSISTANCE: Small Business Emergency Bridge Loan or Rebuild Florida Business Loan Fund
     The most likely source of assistance for local businesses will be the state’s Small Business Emergency Bridge Loan. The short-term no interest loans are for eligible privately owned businesses with two to 100 employees. Businesses must show significant economic impact and the inability to pay “ordinary and necessary operating expenses,” per guidelines.
     The Small Business Development Center in Ocala, which processes these applications, wants businesses to know that due to the high volume of received applications, businesses approved for the loan might not receive funds for more than six weeks from approval.  
     The Rebuild Florida program can provide up to $500,000 for eligible impacted businesses to help with inventory purchases, construction or renovation, working or start-up capital, machinery and equipment purchases or financing.  Information on these programs, including additional eligibility requirements, can be found at
     The Small Business Administration remains a primary source for traditional business lending, and also for disaster assistance. Its Economic Injury Disaster Loan covers businesses other programs don’t, such as non-profits or businesses that have more than 100 employees. The low-interest loans work to overcome temporary loss of revenue, providing up to $2-million.
     Express Bridge Loans are for those who already work with SBA lenders, providing up to $25,000 with less paperwork involved to bridge the economic gap while applying for the EIDL Click HERE.
     The Internal Revenue Service is providing updates on the recently approved stimulus checks, as well as the extension of the federal income tax deadline to July 15. Also, the IRS has worked with the US Treasury Department to offer tax relief programs, including for paid coronavirus-related leave for employees. Visit to learn more.
     Businesses with questions or assistance needs can contact the Executive Director of the Nature Coast Business Development Council at, or 352-221-5113.


Region posts strong jobs gains
before impact of COVID-19 hit

By Laura Byrnes, APR, CPRC
Communications Manager
CareerSource Citrus Levy Marion
Published March 27, 2020 at
     OCALA –
The unemployment rate in the CareerSource Citrus Levy Marion region was 3.9 percent in February, down 0.2 percentage point over the month and 0.5 percentage point lower than the region’s rate a year ago.
     The labor force was 203,400, up 2,417 over the year. There were 195,387 employed, an increase of 3,153 compared to February 2019, and 8,013 unemployed, a drop of 736, when the region’s jobless rate was 4.4 percent. Compared to January’s numbers, there were 1,192 more jobs and 283 fewer jobless.
     The Ocala/Marion County metropolitan statistical area posted the second fastest annual job growth rate in manufacturing, at 4.4 percent, compared to all metro areas in the state.
     Rusty Skinner, CEO of CareerSource CLM, said that “while we’ll undoubtedly see those numbers turn downward in next month’s report, as layoffs related to the Coronavirus begin to be felt, it is significant that our region is starting off from a position of economic strength.”
     Skinner said that the fact that “we experienced labor force expansion across all three counties, both over the month and over the year, and that expansion was fueled by strong jobs gains along with a drop in the number of unemployed is certainly good news, and will hopefully help our region rebound when we hit the other side of COVID-19.”
     To handle increased demand for reemployment services at a time when, for safety reasons, career centers are closed, Skinner said that staff will be working virtually by phone, email and online to help those who need jobs and businesses dealing with extra stresses during this time of social distancing.
     Skinner noted that one area already causing problems due to unprecedented demand is the state’s Reemployment Assistance (Unemployment Insurance) program, which is run by the Florida Department of Economic Opportunity.
      “We are sympathetic to those who have lost their jobs due to COVID-19 and who are frustrated in their efforts to submit claims online,” Skinner said. “We would be glad to assist them and have asked DEO to provide us with the access to do so. Unfortunately, our staff, working remotely, is facing the same issues with the system that they are working from their home computers.”
     Those visiting can access staff via Live Chat, phone and email options. Additionally, job seekers and businesses hit by COVID-19 can submit streamlined requests for services available on the website via COVID-19 Quick Links and Live Chat box, as well as on Candidates and Businesses pages.
     According to February’s preliminary jobs report released today by the Florida Department of Economic Opportunity, Levy County maintained the lowest jobless rate in the region at 3.5 percent, down 0.2 percentage point over the month; Marion County followed with a rate of 3.7 percent, also down 0.2 percentage point; and Citrus County’s rate was 4.1 percent, a drop of 0.1 percentage point. Florida’s not seasonally adjusted jobless rate – a measure that matches the way local rates are calculated – is 2.8. percent, decrease of 0.2 percentage points over the month and down from 3.3 percent a year ago.
     Here’s a snapshot of each county’s jobs numbers for February:
     Citrus County’s labor force rose by 382 over the month to 47,676, the number of employed increased by 435 to 45,398 and the number of unemployed dipped by 53 to 2,278. Compared to February 2019, when the jobless rate was 5.2 percent, the labor force has remained virtually the same – contracting by 9 – while the number of employed rose by 171 and there was a decrease of 180 who are unemployed.
     Levy County’s labor force expanded by 128 to 16,936, the number of those with jobs increased by 154 to 16,346, and the number of unemployed fell by 26 to 590. That’s an over-the-year increase of 115 in the labor force, 198 more working and drop of 83 unemployed compared to when the rate was 4.0 percent.
     Marion County’s labor force grew by 399 to 138,788, the number of those with jobs rose by 603 to 133,643 and the number of unemployed decreased 204 to 5,145. The labor force has expanded by 2,311, there are 2,784 more employed and 473 than fewer unemployed compared to a year ago when the county’s jobless rate was 4.1 percent.
     Nonfarm employment in February 2020 for the Ocala MSA was 107,900, an increase of 1,300 jobs over the year for a growth rate of 1.2 percent.
     The Homosassa Springs MSA’s nonfarm employment was 33,600, a decrease of 200 jobs (-0.6 percent) over the year.
     In addition to manufacturing, which grew by 400 new jobs to 9,500 over the year, industries that grew faster in the metro area than statewide were mining, logging, and construction at 6.1 percent , adding 500 new jobs for a total of 8,700 employed; and government at 2.6 percent, which added 400 jobs for a total of 15,800.
     Additionally, trade, transportation and utilities gained 200 jobs over the year; education and health services added 200 new jobs; and leisure and hospitality added 100 jobs.
     Industries losing jobs over the year were professional business services (-300), information (-100) and financial services (-100).
     The other services industry was unchanged over the year.
     In February, unemployment rates fell over the month in 64 of Florida’s 67 counties and held steady in three counties; over the year, rates dropped in 64 counties and remained the same in two.
Citrus County reclaimed the highest rate, Marion County tied with Gulf and St. Lucie with the 11th highest rate, and Levy County tied with Charlotte, Holmes, Liberty, Polk and Washington counties with the 17th highest rate.
     Among the metro areas, the Homosassa Springs/Citrus County MSA held the highest rate and the Ocala MSA held with the fourth highest rate. The Villages, which includes a portion of Marion County, had the state’s second highest rate among metros.
     March’s preliminary employment summary is scheduled to be released on April 17.


Grocery stores, pharmacies,
hotels and restaurants
revise operations for now

By Jeff M. Hardison © March 24, 2020 at 11:10 a.m.

* Updated March 26, 2020 at 11:10 a.m.
     TRI-COUNTY AREA – A sampling of grocery stores, pharmacies, hotels and restaurants on Tuesday morning (March 24, with updates on March 26) in the Tri-County Area of Levy, Dixie and Gilchrist counties showed some revisions to operations.
     Following are lists with notes to help shoppers. Winn-Dixie and Walmart show some special hours for elderly shoppers only.
     This information is the best that is available to using the telephone and Internet, as of 11:10 a.m. on March 24.

2202 N. Young Blvd., Chiefland
Main phone 352-493-0839 Pharmacy phone 352-493-7447

727 W. Noble Ave., Williston
Main phone 352-528-5551 Pharmacy phone 352-528-5302

Operating Hours
8 a.m. to 8 p.m.

Special Shopping Hours
8 a.m. to 9 a.m., Monday through Friday for seniors and high-risk customers.

All location open at 8 a.m. on weekdays to provide prescription refills, influenza and pneumonia vaccines and customer counseling.

Item Limitations
Paper products, bread, milk and other essentials

2201 N. Young Blvd., Chiefland
Main phone 352-493-0758  Pharmacy phone 352-493-0775

Operating Hours
7 a.m. to 8:30 p.m.

Special Shopping Hours (From March 24 through April 28,)
Tuesdays, 6 a.m. to 7 a.m. for seniors aged 60 and older.
Pharmacies and Vision Centers will be open during this time.

Vision Centers
Will operate on their normal schedule, providing essential services only such as glasses repair and helping customers pick up existing orders.

Auto Care Center
Temporarily shut down

Item Limitations
Paper products, milk, eggs, cleaning supplies, hand sanitizer, water, diapers, wipes, formula and baby food.

110 Rodgers Blvd., Chiefland
Main phone 352-490-5520

Operating Hours
8 a.m. to 8 p.m.

Special Shopping Hours

Item Limits
Paper products and water

100 Commerce St., Bronson
Main Phone 352-306-0530

Operating Hours 7 a.m. – 11 p.m.

Special Shopping Hours
1 hour before Monday through Friday for seniors and high-risk customers.
Closing 1 hour early

Item Limitations
paper products, hand sanitizer and wipes

2227 N Young Blvd, Chiefland
Main phone 352-493-1851

8 N.W. Main St., Williston
Main phone 352-528-3409

Store Operating Hours
Monday, Wednesday-Sunday 9 a.m. to 9 p.m.
Tues. 8 a.m. – 9 p.m.
Pharmacy Hours
Monday, Wednesday-Friday 9 a.m. to 9 p.m.
Tues. 8 a.m. – 9 p.m.
Saturday and Sunday 9-5

Special Shopping Hours
Information was not readily available

Item Limits
Information was not readily available

2137 N. Young Blvd, Chiefland
Main phone 352-493-2592

435 E. Noble Ave., Williston
Main phone 352-528-4146

Operating Hours
Store 9 a.m. 9 p.m.
Saturday 9-9
Sunday 10-7
Weekdays 9 a.m. 8 p.m.
Saturday 9-6
Sunday 10-6

Special Shopping Hours
Information was not readily available

Item Limits
Information was not readily available notes that we hope diners will support our advertisers that are offering Take-Out during this time.

Closed until the day when the island reopens to visitors.

Take-out orders and delivery to local businesses ONLY. The hours are Monday through Friday 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. and Saturday 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. The Garden Patch Café is providing curbside. Customers can call an order in and the Café will bring it out to them. Or they can come in and place the order and the food will be brought out to them at curbside when it’s complete. And people can dine at the tables on the sidewalk. Call 352-507-7090.

Closed until further notice

Closed through April 3

Closed until the day when the island reopens to visitors.

Take-out orders ONLY. The hours are from 5 a.m. to 9:30 p.m., seven-days-a-week. Call 352-498-8008
This restaurant still offers the buffet in a to-go method. Callers will hear what is on the buffet and make orders that are to-go. The full menu Also is still available. Breakfast is served during all business hours.


Comm of Ag Florida
Food is safe;
Agricultural industry is strong

By The FDACS Office of Communications
March 19, 2020 at 8:10 p.m.
Today (Thursday, March 19), the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services is issuing additional guidance regarding COVID-19 for the agriculture industry, consumers and regulated industries.
      “As COVID-19 further sweeps across our state, I want to remind Floridians that our food supply is safe, our agricultural industry is strong, and we’re going to get through this together,” said Agriculture Commissioner Nikki Fried. “We are in constant communication with state, federal, and industry officials on the security of the food we eat, the sanitation of the places we visit, and the procedures in place to keep Florida’s families safe in these challenging times. The best ways Floridians can fight the spread of COVID-19 remains staying home and washing their hands.”

Department Updates
     Office Closings: To minimize exposure to COVID-19 and to protect visitors and employees, Commissioner Fried has ordered all Department offices and facilities temporarily closed to the public from Thursday, March 19 through Sunday, April 19.
     At that time, the Department will further evaluate the situation. Closures include all FDACS regional offices and all Florida Forest Service day-use areas, campgrounds, and recreation areas.
     All interdiction stations remain open and operational. Essential personnel such as Florida Forest Service wildland firefighters and Agricultural Law Enforcement officers will continue serving in the field while practicing social distancing.

Agriculture Updates:
     Production & Labor:
Commissioner Fried has been in close communication with major agricultural producers and associations in Florida, and this week participated in a White House conference call with USDA Secretary Sonny Perdue regarding federal efforts to prevent COVID-19 from impacting the nation’s agricultural operations.
     Commissioner Fried also communicated with members of Florida’s Congressional delegation in support of continued federal processing of H-2A visas necessary for agricultural labor, as Florida enters its planting season.
     Animal & Livestock Feed: FDACS is in close communication with the Florida Feed Association. The state’s animal feed supply chain is not disrupted for Florida’s livestock and pets at this time. Florida Feed Association member businesses remain open and fully operational to ensure customers have fresh animal feed. “Florida’s feed manufacturers are operating following COVID-19 guidelines on a daily basis. As long as product is not hoarded, there are plenty of ingredients in the supply chain to get through these uncharted waters,” said Ty Springer, President of the Florida Feed Association and General Manager, Ocala Breeders Feed & Supply.
     Aquaculture Loans: Last night, the U.S. Small Business Administration issued a statewide declaration for Florida opening the EIDL loan program to eligible small businesses, including small aquaculture business and small agricultural cooperatives. Eligible aquaculture entities should apply at Questions should be directed to the nearest SBA district office.
     Veterinary Protocols: FDACS is working with the Florida Department of Health, the University of Florida College of Veterinary Medicine, the Florida Veterinary Medical Association, and other partners on COVID-19 animal-related questions, including companion animals. There is currently no evidence that domestic animals, such as livestock and pets, can spread or contract COVID-19 infection. If agricultural producers or pet owners have questions about animals and COVID-19, they should contact their veterinarian.

Industry Updates
      Pest Control:
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has released a list of EPA-registered disinfectant products that have qualified for use against SARS-CoV-2, the coronavirus that causes COVID-19. Prior to using any EPA-listed disinfectants in Florida, commercial users should ensure the product is registered for use in Florida. FDACS does not require licensure under F.S. Chapter 482 for companies or individuals using disinfectants, but these products must be used in accordance with label directions. For questions regarding pesticide registration in Florida, contact the FDACS Bureau of Scientific Evaluation and Technical Assistance at 850-617-7940 or

Consumer Updates
     Food Safety, Security & Supply Chain:
Commissioner Fried has communicated with executives at leading food retailers, and can assure Floridians that the food supply chain is intact. There are no supply or manufacturing shortages of food being reported at this time, nor issues with the transportation and logistics supply chains. Therefore, consumers should not hoard food products, which can create difficulties for elderly and immunocompromised populations. Further, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has indicated there is no evidence that COVID-19 is transmitted in food products; consumers are still advised to wash fresh fruits and vegetables under running water.
     Disinfectants: The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has provided recommendations on the cleaning and disinfection of rooms or areas where individuals with potential or confirmed COVID-19 have been present. These recommendations are aimed at limiting the survival of novel coronavirus in key environments. Consumers should visit the CDC’s website for disinfectant information.
     Discontinue Reusable Cups for Refills: The FDACS Division of Food Safety and Florida retail industry groups are recommending the temporary discontinuation of reusing cups. FDACS is asking that retailers consider providing a new reusable cup to customers who present their used cup for refills. This ensures that potentially contaminated cups do not touch the vending apparatus, which could contribute to unintended virus transmission. FDACS is also asking that retailers increase the cleaning and sanitation frequency for these areas. If food establishments have questions regarding this request, they should contact the Division of Food Safety at 850-245-5520 or
     Concealed Weapon & Security Guard Licensing: As a result of office closures, regional office personnel will not be available to fingerprint license applicants. Many law enforcement agencies and tax collector offices across the state have similarly temporarily suspended fingerprinting services. As a result, concealed weapons license (CWL) applicants will be unable to obtain electronic or hard card fingerprinting services from any means authorized under F.S. 790.06(5)(c). Therefore, the FDACS Division of Licensing will suspend acceptance of online and in-person CWL applications beginning Monday, March 23. The Division will continue accepting online and mailed CWL renewal applications and all Chapter 493 security officer applications.
     Reminder: 2-1-1 for Summer BreakSpot: Yesterday, Commissioner Fried announced the activation of a text line and 24/7 call center for families to locate free meals for children under 18 during COVID-19 school closures through the Summer BreakSpot program. Floridians can text FLKIDSMEALS to 211-211, call 2-1-1 to speak with a live operator 24 hours a day, or visit for the participating location nearest them.


SRWMD responds to COVID-19
Published March 19, 2020 at 2:10 p.m.

     LIVE OAK -- Yesterday (Wednesday, March 18), The Suwannee River Water Management District (District) noted it remains open for business.
     However, following direction provided by Gov. Ron DeSantis, the District has canceled all nonessential travel and is temporarily maximizing the use of remote work for staff to help reduce the spread of the coronavirus, also known as COVID-19.

     As of March 18, District headquarter access will be limited to staff only until further notice. Citizens and stakeholders are encouraged to contact District staff remotely if they need assistance. Remote communication includes phone call, teleconference, and email. A list of District contacts and a general inquiry form are available on the District’s website at
     Business hours remain Monday – Friday, from 8 a.m. until 5 p.m.

          Individual and small group day use of District lands will continue. However, groups larger than 10 people are prohibited on all District lands as of March 18. Additionally, Goose Pasture individual camp and group camp sites are closed as of March 23.
     The health of District staff, the public and stakeholders is the main priority. Reducing face-to-face contact is one way the District is doing its part to prevent the spread of COVID-19.
     Call 386-362-1001 if you have questions. Contact information for staff is on the District’s website at


SCORE North Central Florida
Chapter 408 offers information
regarding COVID-19 & business

By Jeff M. Hardison © March 15, 2020 at 9:10 a.m.
SCORE North Central Florida Chapter 408, based in Gainesville, sent an email recently to help small business owners by sharing the latest business guidance, assistance and resources with the advent of COVID-19.
     It is important to be equipped with the right planning and adequate knowledge of what works in times where some normal procedures are forced to change, the email intimated.
     SCORE North Central Florida Chapter 408 is putting together a virtual workshop dedicated to business survival during times of crisis. This SCORE chapter noted it is planning to schedule it soon, according to the email.
     Meanwhile, for people using SCORE resources at this chapter, it noted "In-Person Events Are Suspended; SCORE North Central Florida Chapter 408 Online Support Is Available.
      "The health of small business owners, their employees and our network of volunteers is our top priority," the email from this SCORE chapter noted. "Effective immediately, all SCORE chapters across the country have suspended in-person events, including mentoring sessions and workshops, until further notice, the email continued.
     "Local Workshops. Our upcoming workshops may be postponed or held online. If you’ve recently registered for a workshop, you will receive a status update soon," the email noted.
     The website for this SCORE Chapter is and the email is
     The Small Business Administration (SBA) has posted information regarding loan programs and guidance for businesses. The SBA Guidance for Businesses and Employers to Plan and Respond to COVID-19 can be seen by clicking HERE.
     The Centers for Disease Control & Prevention (CDC) has issued COVID-19 guidance for businesses and is updating them as new developments occur.
     Click HERE to see the CDC's Resources for Business and Employers.
     SCORE North Central Florida Chapter 408 is committed to providing local, small businesses with the best service it can during the period of dealing with COVID-19.
     Funded in part through a cooperative agreement with the United States Small Business Administration, SCORE is the nation’s largest network of volunteer, expert business mentors, which is dedicated to helping small businesses get off the ground, grow and achieve goals. Since 1964, SCORE has provided education and mentorship to more than 11 million entrepreneurs.


Tourists see wildlife galore
during astounding boat ride

ecotour on Withlacoochee River Capt. Rick LeFiles
An adult American Bald Eagle stands on a branch near one of the waterways Capt. Rick LeFiles took people on during an ecotour on Wednesday (March 11). He’s not bald. He just has white feathers on his head and tail.

Story, Photos And Video
By Jeff M. Hardison © March 12, 2020 at 9:10 p.m.

All Copyrights Reserved

     YANKEETOWN – People from Indiana, Virginia, New Jersey and Jemlands (Levy County) enjoyed a spectacular boat tour Wednesday morning (March 11).

Here is a video of an otter seen on Wednesday during the ecotour in Yankeetown.
By Jeff M. Hardison © March 12, 2020 at 9:10 p.m.

All Copyrights Reserved

Ecotour on Withlacoochee River with Capt. Rick LeFiles

Ecotour on Withlacoochee River with Capt. Rick LeFiles
Buddy the dog enjoys the ecotour.

Ecotour on Withlacoochee River with Capt. Rick LeFiles
The boat on the right is relatively sunk. It and the boat next to it are in an inlet created by people.

Ecotour on Withlacoochee River with Capt. Rick LeFiles
An Anhinga is seen submerged except for neck and head. The Anhinga is also known as the snake-bird for its habit of swimming with its body submerged in the water and just its long thin head and neck visible.

Ecotour on Withlacoochee River with Capt. Rick LeFiles
A young American Bald Eagle is seen in a tree. He is not old enough for his white feathers yet.

     Capt. Rick Lefiles, owner of Blackwater Tours and Charters, provided a two-hour narrated tour of the Withlacoochee River, a touch of the Gulf of Mexico and Bennett Creek. Passengers saw several alligators in the wild.
     Many adult and young American Bald Eagles, osprey, softback turtles (sliders), an otter, small blue herons, a great blue heron, sandhill cranes, wood storks, ibis, multi-colored cranes and manatees (including a calf with its mother) were seen during the tour.
     This was the first of Capt. LeFiles’ tours that Wednesday. To learn about his business of providing nature guides on the River, and fishing trips, too, please visit his website at
     The captain took the six passengers on the ecotour in his boat the Osprey III, a 20-foot Bennington pontoon, which is United States Coast Guard-certified for up to six passengers.
     LeFiles, a native of Valdosta, Georgia, has a long history of working on the water, including catching tarpon in that very area.
     On Wednesday, he shared a two-hour narration of the history of Inglis and Yankeetown, which he colorfully shared in a personal and friendly manner. For people familiar with Florida, levy County and these communities, his stories were entertaining.

Ecotour on Withlacoochee River with Capt. Rick LeFiles
A Little Blue Heron is a common but inconspicuous resident of the estuaries in the Southeast – including in Yankeetown, as seen here on the tour Wednesday.

Ecotour on Withlacoochee River with Capt. Rick LeFiles
Some of the natural beauty on the trip is seen here. A tree. The captain told a story about a giant tree in Florida that died from a person lighting a crack pipe while they were in the hollow tree.

Ecotour on Withlacoochee River with Capt. Rick LeFiles

Ecotour on Withlacoochee River with Capt. Rick LeFiles

Ecotour on Withlacoochee River with Capt. Rick LeFiles
Alligators are seen on the trip. On this ecotour, there were several alligators seen in the wild – of every size, even a couple of 12-foot long ‘gators.

Ecotour on Withlacoochee River with Capt. Rick LeFiles
This white heron is walking on oyster shells and mud. The trip included seeing things when the tide was low.

Ecotour on Withlacoochee River with Capt. Rick LeFiles
An old shrimp boat and a newer version of a shrimp boat are seen here docked near each other.

Ecotour on Withlacoochee River with Capt. Rick LeFiles
A mother manatee and her calf swim by Capt. Rick LeFiles’ boat the Osprey III. The tour guide spoke about these mammals that swim in the Withlacoochee River, and elsewhere.

Ecotour on Withlacoochee River with Capt. Rick LeFiles
This Osprey is among those birds seen on the tour. The people were on a boat named Osprey III.

Ecotour on Withlacoochee River with Capt. Rick LeFiles
This young American Bald Eagle is among those seen on the tour.

Ecotour on Withlacoochee River with Capt. Rick LeFiles
The otter is seen in three still shots. He was very active. Capt. LeFiles shared a story about when he came face-to-face with an otter on one of his boats one day. (Please check out the video closer to the top of this article.)

     For the tourists, they also were entertaining, as well as being educational and informative. On this trip, he opened with a story about A.F. Knotts, the founder of what became Yankeetown.
     Knotts would hunt and fish starting in the 1915 in the Withlacoochee River, Homosassa River, Waccasassa River and Crystal River, LeFiles said.
     He told about how people from the north would come to what became known as Yankeetown, even though Knotts might have wanted to name the town after himself.
     Knotts, an attorney, a judge and an engineer with a survey company from Indiana. This developer of the area was relatively well off financially, LeFiles said. He shared with listeners that he used six different published books to create his narrative, adding that there is a book for sale at the Yankeetown Public Library, which tells about some of the history of the area.
     Knotts decided to retire in this part of Florida, LeFiles said.
     He chose this area rather than near the Crystal River, because it was spring fed and was shallow. With the Withlacoochee being deeper, Knotts envisioned bigger boats coming up the river from the Gulf of Mexico, to help the town develop.
     LeFiles told about the construction of the Izaak Walton Lodge, which is now the home of the Black Water Grill, where Capt. LeFiles, from which he launches and returns with the Osprey III.
     Knotts named the lodge after Izaak Walton (Aug. 9, 1593- Dec. 15, 1683). Among his works, Walton authored The Compleat Angler (1653), a pastoral discourse on the joys and stratagems of fishing that has been one of the most frequently reprinted books in English literature.    
     LeFiles spoke about the history of phosphate mining, shrimping, starting to build the Cross Florida Barge Canal, the history of the Withlacoochee River and other Florida rivers, and much more.
     He shared a novel story about Elvis Presley and the 1962 movie Follow That Dream. Part of Levy County Road 40 West is named after the movie, which was filmed in Inglis, Yankeetown and other parts of this area.
     LeFiles said accurately that for many years the people of Inglis and Yankeetown have not always gotten along. As part of this story, he mentioned that Inglis has designated one small area as “Cracker Town.” The term “Cracker,” he said comes from the crack of the whip of cattlemen from old Florida, where they would round up loose cows and brand them, making those wild cows their own.
     He spoke about his time as a fishing guide where he would push a long pole as fishermen looked over the bow to find the fish they sought to catch.
     Telling passengers a much more recent fishing story than when he used to push a long pole, the captain spoke about his own guided service where the anglers sought redfish earlier that very week, but came home with large trout instead – resulting in big fish filets for those fishermen.
     As Capt. LeFiles spoke, he pointed out historic landmarks that still exist – even though, for instance, a structure that was formerly a shrimp packing plant is now a very nice residence.
     And the ecotour guide spoke about deserted boats sitting in a manmade canal, and what could be done to float them and remove – as well as the unlikelihood of that happening.
     While he knew where some animals were likely going to be seen, nature is not something that even the best guide can control.
     For the passengers on this trip, the guaranteed entertainment and information presented by Capt. LeFiles was something to write home about – but the plethora of creatures was a thrill beyond expectations.
     The first alligator seen on the trip excited some passengers. However, just as Capt. LeFiles said, there were many, many alligators waiting to be seen. And so, they were.
     While some people don’t want to swim in water if they see an alligator, Capt. LeFiles said he used to swim in the river, although not when alligators were around.
     When he saw a bull shark, however, he decided to not swim in the Withlacoochee River anymore.
     Bull sharks are a relatively aggressive shark, and they have bitten and killed people in Florida. It’s not like sharks hunt people, but a human can be seen as a food source for some species of sharks – at least until the shark tastes the human and then chooses to find better food.
     As for alligators, harassing them or feeding them is illegal. By feeding an alligator, it causes them to lose their fear of humans. Despite alligators not being inclined to attack humans, swimming with them is not recommended.

Ecotour on Withlacoochee River with Capt. Rick LeFiles
These pelicans are a relatively common bird seen on the Gulf of Mexico. Here they are during low tide near the Levy County Road 40 western end.

Ecotour on Withlacoochee River with Capt. Rick LeFiles
Coming back into dock, some of the many boats on that part of the Withlacoochee River are seen on Wednesday. The captain also pointed out some traps used to capture stone crabs. There is a stone crab fisherman in the area with many traps, and he is bringing them in as the season ends.

Ecotour on Withlacoochee River with Capt. Rick LeFiles
This fishing guide with a long pole is guiding a fisherman in search of redfish. Capt. Rick LeFiles did this type of fishing guide work in this manner for several years.

Ecotour on Withlacoochee River with Capt. Rick LeFiles
The story of Florida Power Corp., Progress Energy Florida and Duke Energy Florida includes nuclear, coal, oil and natural gas electric generation. The ecotour guide shared his insight from part of that history. These structures are in the Crystal River area. This is looking south from the Yankeetown area.

Ecotour on Withlacoochee River with Capt. Rick LeFiles
This bird is among the animals seen on the trip. It could be a multi-colored crane.

Ecotour Withlacoochee River Rick LeFiles
This Great Blue Crane picture captures one of the many moving moments during the trip. The wildlife seen on that one ecotour with six passengers and one captain was awesome.

Ecotour Withlacoochee River Rick LeFiles
This is one handsome Wood Stork seen flying over the area during the ecotour. (There was a photo published earlier this week of Wood Storks conferring at a pond.)

     Tourists on the boat learned about young bald eagles not having white feathers on their heads and tails. Those American symbols were seen in trees and flying overhead during the two-hour ecotour.
     Various types of herons and cranes were pointed out. The fauna of the region that was seen along the riverbanks and in creeks were named and descriptions of their use was shared as well by LeFiles.
     To capture the years from the 1800s to the 2ooos in Capt. LeFiles’ narrative, really is not possible. Going on the ecotour with him is the single best way to experience that, as well as to probably see a relatively good assortment of animals.
     On this trip, Capt. LeFiles even showed a nautical map, as well as actual historic pictures of certain aspects of Florida history from this region as he guided the Osprey III.
     Some lucky passengers get to ride with Buddy, LeFiles’ pet dog. As for Wednesday’s first trip of the day, Buddy definitely enjoyed the 10 a.m. to noon trip, but the captain said his dog might not make all three tours that day.
     Capt. LeFiles spoke about the wildlife and this Florida designated Outstanding Waterway during the whole trip, as well as sharing some of the state’s history, and tales of some local folk from the past.
     While each of his ecotours are unique, due to the daily tidal swing, many kinds of animals – even beyond those seen Wednesday, such as deer, turkey, wild boar, porpoise, and mullet schools can be seen above and below the surface from visitors’ vantage point on Osprey III.
     Bennett Creek. Roseate Spoonbill and the only native American stork, the Wood Stork, are appreciated here almost year-round.
You will have direct input throughout the trip with your guide. Interact with your guest and even do a little guiding of your own. The Captain will be happy to make navigation adjustments when that special photo opportunity presents itself. The trip is a wonderful look back into “Old Florida”. They will linger a little longer as the sunset reflects off the water at the end of another beautiful day on the Withlacoochee. Reservations suggested. All major credit cards accepted. 352-400-0133.
     The seven-mile ecotour costs $30 per person, with a minimum of two passengers and a maximum of six passengers. For the six passengers on the first tour of Wednesday, there was 100 percent agreement that everyone got even more than what they paid for.

Ecotour Withlacoochee River Rick LeFiles
That's all folks!

WEDNESDAY  APRIL 1  11:10 a.m.
Levy, Dixie and Gilchrist counties

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