The Florida Aquaculture Association (FAA) was formed in 1983 to provide a united organization for Florida’s diverse and specialized aquatic farming commodities. Florida is the number one U.S. producer of tropical fish, clams, aquatic plants, live rock (cultivated coral) and alligators with total farm-gate sales of $101 million in 2005.
The mission of the Florida Aquaculture Association is to provide a unified voice for Florida aquaculture that ensures its sustainability, protects its profitability, and encourages its development in an environmentally responsible manner.
One of the first of FAA’s accomplishments was to draft, lobby, and get passed Florida’s Aquaculture Policy Act of 1984. This act created the Aquaculture Review Council and officially defined aquaculture as agriculture. Since 1983, FAA has been holding annual legislative receptions featuring a “Taste of Florida Aquaculture” products to familiarize our state legislators, their staff, the Cabinet, and Governor’s office with Florida’s aquatic farming industry. This event and others have made aquaculture a known word in Tallahassee and have been vital in enacting legislation to promote the growth of and reduce regulations on our industry. Over the last 4 years the legislature has appropriated $4.8 million to support new research and marketing programs for Florida’s expanding aquaculture industry.
FAA has hosted many major educational meetings by itself and with other national and international aquaculture groups in Florida since 1985. Today we continue to hold meetings amongst ourselves and with other national and international organizations when they meet in Florida. FAA often offers farm tours for a chance to educate others about Florida’s important aquaculture industry.
History of Accomplishments
In 1984, FAA helped draft, lobby, and get passed the Aquaculture Policy Act. This Act created the Aquaculture Review Council (ARC), which is our voice directly to the Commissioner of Agriculture.
In August 1985, FAA filed a legal challenge to an unconstitutional rule on behalf of clam farmers which eventually resulted in a new attitude towards clam leases and revision of Chapter 18-21 FAC allowing leases to be issued. Florida now has over 500 clam leases.
In 1985, FAA was able to include aquaculture in a rule revision of aquatic preserves and lobbied for the first ever permanent staff positions in the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services (DACS) to support our industry.
In 1986, FAA pushed for the first ever Regulatory Sourcebook which started a long process of revising regulations to make them simpler, affordable, and based on common sense. FAA helped implement an aquatic animal health and diagnostic program in conjunction with Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services (DACS). FAA proposed aquaculture be defined as agriculture. Other activities included: farm raised red drum were exempted from MFC rules; submitted a petition with over 160 names to the Cabinet of those interested in obtaining a lease; brought Department of Natural Resources (DNR) staff to an FAA Board meeting to discuss leases; and helped organize a Congressional hearing in Gainesville in April.
In 1987, FAA initiated a seminar series for producers which has since been picked up by other organizations. FAA participated in organizational meetings of National Aquaculture Association (NAA). FAA lobbying efforts resulted in strengthening Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services’ (DACS) role, exemption of aquaculture from occupational licensing, provision for fuel tax exemption for aquatic farmers, and inclusion of aquaculture in the Right to Farm Act.
In 1988, the Aquaculture Policy Act was renewed and aquaculture for the first time was partially considered agriculture. The first two new leases under the revised rule and statute were issued.
In 1989, FAA met with the head of the Department of Natural Resources (DNR) to set lease fees subsequently approved by the Governor and Cabinet, ending a six year process! FAA became a charter member of the National Aquaculture Association (NAA); opposed a state rule allowing the state to poison facilities if non-natives were found; and proposed legislation to segregate aquaculture from native (feral) wildlife laws, consolidate permitting , and establish strong anti-theft penalties. We supported a rule making tilapia hybrids easier to culture and opposed a rule requiring hybrid striped bass to be tagged. FAA supported establishment of the University of Florida Sam Mitchell Aquaculture Demonstration Farm, which was dedicated on Octobter 26, 1989, and recommended the first ever effluent study of aquaculture. FAA challenged the minimum size rule for clams in court.
In 1990, FAA hired a full time lobbyist for the first time and supported the Issues of Concern process of the ARC. Legislation further refined the definition of aquaculture favorably, sent the University of Florida Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences (IFAS) effluent study to DER, delegated permitting to the Water Management Districts, consolidated Florida Game and Fish Commission permitting, and defined aquaculture theft as grand theft.
In 1991, FAA participated in Governor Chile’s inauguration festival, received widespread publicity from aquaculture articles published in Florida Sportsman Magazine, proposed a separate office of aquaculture within Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services (DACS), defeated both a shellfish surtax and aquatic plant tax, removed the six inch bottom restriction from shellfish leases and declared aquaculture to be in the public interest in aquatic preserves. A new marine life rule was enacted, and FAA worked to get aquaculture included in greenbelt laws.
In 1992, the first separate FAA Legislative Reception was held at Kay Young’s home, and the first FAA Auction was held in Cedar Key as part of FAA’s Annual Reunion. FAA requested the Department of Natural Resources to perform more water quality work in the Indian River to open up shellfish culture.
In 1993, Paul Norton of Ruskin, Florida, was elected president of the National Aquaculture Association (NAA), and the Legislature finally declared aquaculture to be agriculture, added all five Water Management Districts to the Aquaculture Review Council, and made further instructions on reforming and streamlining permitting.
In 1994, the General Permit system for aquaculture was enacted and lease rules were revised with no negative language being added or increase in fees due to FAA members’ persistence. After nine years the clam size rule was passed by the Cabinet finally resolving “who owns the clam”.
In 1995, marine aquaculture was considered by the Legislature due to a legislative report supported by FAA. FAA made active plans to develop and support major legislation proposed for 1996. A Legislative hearing in Cedar Key was organized and supported by FAA.
In 1996, FAA helped Rep. Bert Harris passed one of the most far-reaching pieces of aquaculture legislation in the nation: “Aquaculture IS Agriculture” was strengthened to the maximum, created the certification program replacing permits in Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services (DACS), transferred all aquaculture authority to DACS, defined marine aquaculture, and accomplished a host of other things designed to encourage aquaculture and not unfairly regulate our business.
In 1997, the Legislature encouraged sturgeon farming, counties were prevented from charging additional fees for leases, and sales taxes for aquatic farmers were reduced or eliminated. The farm gate value of Aquaculture passed the $100 million mark for the first time in Florida.
The 1998 legislative session was another significant year for Florida’s aquaculture industry and included the establishment of the Division of Aquaculture within Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services (DACS). The new division was directed by the Legislature to protect Florida’s environment and enhance industry growth. For the first time Florida aquaculturists could contact one office and get the answers and help to establish and operate a farm.
In 1999, FAA participated in the process of developing a wide variety of Best Management Practices (BMPs) to replace confusing and duplicative state permits and licenses issued by multiple agencies. Best Management Practices become the core elements of the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services’ (DACS) annual certification program. Commercial fishers that are growing hard clams were allowed to use their farm gate income to meet the requirements to renew their Saltwater Product Licenses.
In 2000, the farm gate value of Florida aquaculture dips to $86 million but maintains a growth trend that began in 1987. Hard clam farming, as an industry segment, jumps to the number two spot over aquatic plants while tropical fish production remains number one in value even while suffering lower sales. FAA supports the creation of a national marketing campaign to boost tropical fish sales and aquarium keeping that is managed by the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services’ (DACS) Bureau of Seafood and Aquaculture Marketing.
In 2001, FAA fights for limited state funding to support applied research to solve production and technical problems that is managed by the Aquaculture Review Council (ARC). The Association also supports the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services (DACS) Division of Aquaculture and prevents position cuts that would cripple farm certification and inspection efforts. Certification continues to grow with 957 facilities certified as being in compliance with Best Management Practices designed to protect Florida’s fragile environment. FAA provided an industry perspective and recommendations to a multi-agency process to develop a Florida invasive species management