Potential Agricultural Cuts

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Despite a better budget forecast this year, money will still be tight. Farmers and agricultural leaders are worried budget cuts will mean smaller profit margins and reduced service from the Department of Agriculture.

The cuts could also keep farmers from implement new food safety measures to fight terrorism and disease.

It's a good day for farming chores, but not necessarily for farmers. Mack Glass and others worry about potential budget cuts in agriculture and the ever-dwindling profit margins of the last few years.

"Any additional costs is putting us on the border of being viable economically, and if we're not, then the only option we have to do with our property is to put it into houses and lots and we certainly don't want to do that if we can remain viable," says Mack.

Ed Jowers at the Jackson County Extension Office says research and other services provided by the Department of Agriculture are crucial to the survival of Florida's number two industry, second only to tourism.

"We worked over the years to get things built up. We've always been under funded, always lacking and we're finally beginning to get the staff, but what good is staff if we don't have the equipment necessary to carry out the research, the facility, basically the infrastructure for it," says extension agent Ed Jowers.

Farmers and industry leaders are not just worried about cuts in the usual services provided by the Department of Agriculture. They're also worried about the extra cost of food safety measures related to the War on Terrorism and diseases like mad cow.

"It's very difficult, the new challenges that are ahead of us, we've got food safety and security an additional thing that's been put on us to provide training and outlook."

The Florida Legislature may provide additional funding for the newest food safety measures, but farmers will likely still be expected to pay some of those costs.