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State News

Lawmakers Glean Idea to Help Farmers And Hungry

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Cleber Mori
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Lawmakers say they’ve got a feel good bill they’ll tell their constituents about when they head back home. The measure protects farmers and helps to feed the hungry.

To keep food from going to waste, state law lets farmers open their fields after harvest to what’s called agricultural gleaning.

“Gleaning is the practice of allowing individuals or organizations to remove produce from the property to be given away for free to those who are in need,” says Rep. Kevin Rader (D-Delray Beach).

He’s sponsoring a bill that would expand protections for farmers who allow gleaning to anytime, not just after a harvest. Rep. Katie Edwards (D-Plantation) says that change is important.

"We’re talking about what’s currently in statute, which is after harvest, versus allowing people to come in at any time. You recognize that market fluctuations, things may change that want people to come in there, if the market is low to be able to get in there and harvest let’s say a tomato crop. While it’s not technically after harvest, it’s still available there so that technical difference will allow people to have access to fresh nutritious vegetables,” Edwards says.

Edwards says  while the measure will impact growers in Western Palm Beach County—Rader’s district, it will also make a difference for farmers across the state. And the sentiment goes across the aisle. Rep. Matt Hudson (R-Naples) says he’s happy to see the measure moving forward.  

“This is an issue in my district, representing the eastern portion of Collier County and all of Hendry County. There’s a tremendous amount of agriculture and so anything we can do to support the individuals who frankly feed the world is extraordinarily important,” Hudson says.

The measure helps protect farmers who allow gleaning from civil liabilities but Butch Calhoun of the Florida Fruit and Vegetable Association says if the farmer knows about a danger he is required to warn anyone coming onto his land.

“You may have a situation where a farmer had a bull that was dangerous and you wouldn’t want people to go into the field where he was. You might have a sinkhole. There are a number of situations you might need to warn people that are coming onto your property about,” Calhoun says.

Calhoun says the bill just makes sense to him.

“A lot of times we have situations that arise, prices drop, we’re not going to harvest a crop. So why not give it to a food bank,” Calhoun says.

Food bank advocates say some farmers already allow collection of food before a harvest despite liability concerns. They’re hopeful this measure will increase that behavior.