Members of the Joint Legislative Budget Commission have approved two mid-year budget amendments to provide critical funding needed to restore Florida’s seafood industry in the wake of Tropical Storm Debby and the Deepwater Horizon oil spill.
“The impact of these disasters has reverberated throughout the Northwest Florida region and across our state,” said Senate President Don Gaetz (R-Niceville). “I commend Senator Montford for his leadership in ensuring that the Legislature maintains our commitment to making the people and communities of Northwest Florida whole as they continue to recover from these devastating events.”
During the Jan. 17 meeting in the Knott Building’s Webster Hall, seven House members and seven Senators considered budget amendments from 11 agencies, 22 of which were approved.
Amendment B0320 will provide an additional $3.2 million in spending authority to the Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services in the Agriculture Emergency Eradication Trust Fund. The funds will come from a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) with BP negotiated after the Deepwater Horizon oil spill. The MOU allotted $20 million from October 2010 through October 2013, half for seafood testing and half to marketing safe seafood. The additional spending authority will go to anticipated expenditures related to the 2012-13 fiscal year, with the remaining funds being distributed during the 2013-14 fiscal year.
The second amendment, B0385, will address the impact of Tropical Storm Debby on Apalachicola Bay’s oyster beds. Since the storm, the oyster population has significantly diminished, displacing many workers. The request, received from the Department of Economic Opportunity, for $2.7 million would provide 215 of those workers from the oyster industry with jobs restoring and replenishing the oyster population with funding from a National Emergency Grant which the department was awarded.
“Northwest Florida’s seafood industry is vital to both our region’s economic structure and individual identity, and sustaining that unique industry is in the best interest of all those who live and work in our region, state and even nation,” said State Senator Bill Montford (D-Tallahassee). “This funding will help create jobs, fund research and protect our coasts and the surrounding ecosystems and economies.”