Ron DeSantis Issues Executive Order to Help Florida Farmers After January Freeze

On Wednesday night, Gov. Ron DeSantis issued Executive Order 22-27 (Emergency Management – Freezing Temperatures, Harm to Agriculture).

Since Friday, January 28, the Florida Division of Emergency Management has been working closely with each of the county emergency management offices, the Florida Department of Citrus, and other agricultural industry partners to respond to and recover from the recent freezing temperatures, and will continue to provide support to the impacted areas.

DeSantis issued an executive order declaring an emergency in Brevard, Broward, Charlotte, Citrus, Collier, Daytona, DeSoto, Hardee, Henry, Hernando, Highlands, Hillsborough, Indian River, Lake, Lee, Manatee, Martin, Miami-Dade, Monroe, Okeechobee, Orange, Osceola, Palm Beach, Pasco, Pinellas, Polk, Sarasota, Seminole, St. Lucie, Sumter and Volusia Counties to help farmers in those areas.

The order is below.

EXECUTIVE ORDER NUMBER 22-27
(Emergency Management – Freezing Temperatures, Harm to Agriculture)

WHEREAS, during the weekend of January 28-30, 2022, a strong cold front moved across Florida, subjecting almost the entire State to prolonged freezing temperatures; and

WHEREAS, in recent days, temperatures statewide have rapidly returned to seasonable levels; and

WHEREAS, prior to the start of the extreme weather, the Florida Division of Emergency Management has coordinated with state agencies and local partners, as well as the Chief State Meteorologist, to determine the areas affected and the potential impacts; and

WHEREAS, such prolonged freezing temperatures and extreme fluctuations in weather conditions impact Florida’s agricultural industry; and

WHEREAS, facilitating an emergency harvest is essential to prevent destruction of agriculture, and the relaxation of the restrictions on commercial vehicles is necessary to transport vulnerable crops to processing sites without delay; and

WHEREAS, as Governor of Florida, I am responsible to meet the dangers presented to Florida and its people by this emergency.

NOW, THEREFORE, I, RON DESANTIS, as Governor of Florida, by virtue of the authority vested in me by Article IV, Section 1(a) of the Florida Constitution and by the Florida Emergency Management Act, as amended, and all other applicable laws, promulgate the following Executive Order, to take immediate effect:

Section 1. Because of the foregoing conditions, I declare that a state of emergency exists in Brevard, Broward, Charlotte, Citrus, Collier, Daytona, DeSoto, Hardee, Hendry, Hernando, Highlands, Hillsborough, Indian River, Lake, Lee, Manatee, Martin, Miami-Dade, Monroe, Okeechobee, Orange, Osceola, Palm Beach, Pasco, Pinellas, Polk, Sarasota, Seminole, St. Lucie, Sumter, and Volusia counties.

Section 2. I designate the Director of the Division of Emergency Management (“Director”) as the State Coordinating Officer for the duration of this emergency and direct him to execute the State’s Comprehensive Emergency Management Plan and other response, recovery, and mitigation plans necessary to cope with the emergency. Pursuant to section 252.36(1)(a), Florida Statutes, I delegate to the State Coordinating Officer the authority to exercise those powers delineated in sections 252.36(6)-(12), Florida Statutes, which he shall exercise as needed to meet this emergency, subject to the limitations of section 252.33, Florida Statutes. In exercising the powers delegated by this Executive Order, the State Coordinating Officer shall confer with the Governor to the fullest extent practicable. The State Coordinating Officer shall also have the authority to:

A. Invoke and administer the Emergency Management Assistance Compact (“EMAC”) (sections 252.921-252.9335, Florida Statutes) and other compacts and agreements existing between the State of Florida and other states, and the further authority to coordinate the allocation of resources from such other states that are made available to Florida under such compacts and agreements so as to best meet the dangers presented by this emergency.

B. Seek direct assistance and enter into agreements with any and all agencies of the federal government as may be needed to meet this emergency.

C. Direct all state, regional, and local governmental agencies, including law enforcement agencies, to identify personnel needed from those agencies to assist in meeting the response, recovery, and mitigation needs created by this emergency, and to place all such personnel under the direct command and coordination of the State Coordinating Officer to meet this emergency.

D. Direct the actions of any state agency as necessary to implement the Federal Emergency Management Agency’s National Disaster Recovery Framework.

E. Designate Deputy State Coordinating Officers and Deputy State Disaster Recovery Coordinators, as necessary.

F. Suspend the effect of any statute, rule, or order that would in any way prevent, hinder, or delay any mitigation, response, or recovery action necessary to cope with this emergency. In accordance with section 252.3611(1), Florida Statutes, any such order, declaration, or other action shall specify each statute or rule being amended or waived, if applicable, and the expiration date for the order or action.

G. Enter orders as may be needed to implement any of the foregoing powers; however, the requirements of section 120.54(4), Florida Statutes, do not apply to any such orders issued by the State Coordinating Officer. No such order shall remain in effect beyond the expiration of this Executive Order, including any extension thereof.

Section 3. I find that the special duties and responsibilities resting upon some State, regional, and local agencies and other governmental bodies in responding to this emergency may require them to suspend or waive certain statutes, rules, ordinances, and orders they administer. Therefore, I issue the following authorizations:

A. Pursuant to section 252.36(6)(a), Florida Statutes, the Executive Office of the Governor may suspend all statutes and rules affecting budgeting to the extent necessary to provide budget authority for state agencies to cope with this emergency. The requirements of section 120.54(4), Florida Statutes, do not apply to any such suspension issued by the Executive Office of the Governor. No such suspension shall remain in effect beyond the expiration of this Executive Order, including any extension thereof.

B. Each State agency may suspend the provisions of any regulatory statute prescribing the procedures for conduct of state business or the orders or rules of that agency, if strict compliance with the provisions of any such statute, order, or rule would in any way prevent, hinder, or delay necessary action in coping with the emergency. For the purposes of this Executive Order, “necessary action in coping with the emergency” means any emergency mitigation, response, or recovery action: (1) prescribed in the State Comprehensive Emergency Management Plan (“CEMP”); or (2) ordered by the State Coordinating Officer or designee. In accordance with section 252.3611(1), Florida Statutes, any agency order, declaration, or other action suspending a statute or rule shall specify each statute or rule being amended or waived, if applicable, and the expiration date for the order or action. The requirements of section 120.54(4), Florida Statutes, shall not apply to any such suspension issued by a State agency. No such suspension shall remain in effect beyond the expiration of this Executive Order, including any extension thereof.

C. All state agencies entering emergency orders, emergency rules, or other emergency actions in response to this emergency shall advise the State Coordinating Officer contemporaneously or as soon as practicable thereafter, and, pursuant to section 252.36(3)(b), Florida Statutes, shall file the order or declaration with the Division of Administrative Hearings within five days of issuance.

D. The Secretary of the Florida Department of Transportation (DOT) may:

1. Waive the hours of service requirements for commercial motor vehicles
that enter Florida to provide emergency services or supplies, or to transport emergency equipment, supplies, personnel or agricultural food commodities and citrus.

2. Waive the size and weight restrictions for divisible loads on any vehicles
transporting emergency equipment, services, supplies, and agricultural food commodities and citrus as recommended by the Commissioner of Agriculture, allowing the establishment of alternate size and weight restrictions for all such vehicles for the duration of the emergency. The DOT shall issue permits and such vehicles shall be subject to such special conditions as the DOT may endorse on any such permits. Nothing in this Executive Order shall be construed to allow any vehicle to exceed weight limits posted for bridges and like structures, or relieve any vehicle or the carrier, owner, or driver of any vehicle from compliance with any restrictions other than those specified in this Executive Order, or from any statute, rule, order, or other legal requirement not specifically waived or suspended herein or by supplemental order by the State Coordinating Officer.

E. The Executive Director of the Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles (DHSMV) may waive the hours of service requirements for commercial motor vehicles that enter Florida to provide emergency services or supplies, or to transport emergency equipment, supplies, personnel or agricultural food commodities and citrus.

Section 4. In accordance with section 252.37(2), Florida Statutes, I direct that sufficient funds be made available, as needed, by transferring and expending moneys appropriated for other purposes, moneys from unappropriated surplus funds, or from the Budget Stabilization Fund.

Section 5. All actions taken by the Director as the State Coordinating Officer with respect to this emergency before the issuance of this Executive Order are ratified, and he is directed to continue to execute the State of Florida Comprehensive Emergency Management Plan and other response, recovery, and mitigation plans necessary to cope with this emergency.

Section 6. This Executive Order is effective immediately and shall expire sixty (60) days from this date unless extended.

Earlier on Wednesday, state Agriculture Commissioner Nikki Fried wrote to DeSantis urging him to immediately declare a state of emergency for Polk, Highlands, Hardee, Desoto, Hendry, Collier, Glades, Okeechobee, and Palm Beach Counties, allowing the Florida Department of Transportation to invoke its authority to suspend size and weight restrictions of any vehicles traveling within the state that are transporting agriculture commodities and citrus so that impacted farmers can move as much product as possible while it is still salvageable.

Fried’s letter is below.

As you may know, the record cold temperatures that we have seen in the state over the past two weekends were of great concern to our Florida fruit and vegetable producers, who support the state’s $149.5 billion agriculture industry. My department has been in constant contact with our industry partners throughout this extreme weather event, and while assessments continue, it is clear that the losses necessitate an emergency declaration.

I write today to urge you to immediately declare a state of emergency for Polk, Highlands, Hardee, Desoto, Hendry, Collier, Glades, Okeechobee and Palm Beach counties so that the Florida Department of Transportation can invoke its authority to suspend size and weight restrictions of any vehicles traveling within the state that are transporting agriculture commodities and citrus as recommended by the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services, allowing our impacted farmers to move as much produce as possible while it is still salvageable.

Our agriculture industry is our state’s second largest economic driver, and our farmers are the best in the world. They remain resilient in the face of continued unfair foreign trade, invasive pests and diseases, a global pandemic, and extreme weather – from hurricanes to now these record cold temperatures. But they need our help now to keep Florida growing.

On behalf of Florida’s farmers and our agriculture industry, I urge you to provide the state support needed by issuing a state of emergency declaration to help them weather this recent challenge and to keep our food supply safe and strong.

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