WASHINGTON—Representatives Scott Franklin (FL-18) and Darren Soto (FL-09) introduced the Conservation Reserve Program Amendments Act on Thursday. This bill would protect Florida orange groves by making them eligible to enroll in the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Conservation Reserve Program (CRP), a federal initiative designed to protect vulnerable farmland. It creates a subprogram within the CRP designed to conserve citrus groves across the country by providing growers grant payments for lands impacted by citrus greening, at risk of development, or considered known habitats for endangered species. The grants would apply to lands where citrus has grown over the last 10 years and allow up to 100,000 acres of U.S. land to be enrolled.

Cosponsors of the Conservation Reserve Program Amendments Act include Reps. Maria Elvira Salazar (FL-27) and Kat Cammack (FL-03).

Rep. Franklin’s bill is the House companion to Sen. Marco Rubio’s version, which was also introduced on Thursday.

“Amending the CRP to include Florida citrus groves gives our farmers needed time to rehabilitate their crops and continue our state’s long tradition of providing domestically sourced orange juice,” said Rep. Franklin. “While Florida taxpayers pay into the CRP, our state has been chronically underrepresented in the program. At a time when our citrus growers are struggling to recover from last year’s severe hurricane season, now is the perfect opportunity to level the playing field. Not only would this inclusion provide time to recover, but it ensures Florida farmland is preserved for future use.”

"As we work to address the challenges facing our Florida citrus industry and support our growers and farmers, we must also prioritize the protection of the land on which these crops are grown,” said Rep. Soto. “The subprogram this bill proposes for the Conservation Reserve Program (CRP) will provide citrus growers with a valuable option to conserve their land while we continue to develop new treatments for citrus greening and recover from the damage caused by hurricanes. The subprogram will also help prevent the permanent loss of Florida's agricultural lands to development and protect critical wildlife corridors. This is a timely and important bill to help Central Florida growers recover and thrive.”

“Florida’s agricultural industries play a vital role in feeding our nation and supporting our economy,” said Sen. Rubio. “Unfortunately, due to impacts from hurricanes, citrus greening, and unfair trade pressures, Florida’s citrus growers are increasingly left with little choice but to sell their land to developers. This legislation will help protect Florida’s agricultural lands and wildlife corridors, ensuring that Florida’s citrus growers can continue to provide for our state and nation.”

"Florida citrus growers are grateful to Senator Marco Rubio, Congressman Scott Franklin and Congressman Darren Soto for sponsoring legislation to protect citrus groves from development,” said Matt Joyner, CEO of Florida Citrus Mutual. “While growers are working to rebuild the industry, their lands have become extremely valuable and are at great risk of urban development. Enrolling citrus groves in the Conservation Reserve Program will prevent permanent loss of our precious landscape, which is critical to restoring water quality and providing critical wildlife habitat, while providing a new revenue stream to struggling landowners.”

“For decades citrus has been Florida’s flagship agricultural commodity,” said Florida Farm Bureau Federation President Jeb S. Smith. “With disease, development pressure and adverse weather causing yearly declines in citrus production and loss of grove lands, the environmental benefits provided by these lands are being lost as well.  Florida Farm Bureau supports the Conservation Reserve Program Amendments Act of 2023 and applauds Congressman Franklin, Congressman Soto and Senator Rubio for their efforts to include these groves in the Conservation Reserve Program, thus preserving the water recharge and wildlife habitat that these groves provide, in addition to enhancing their economic viability.”

A copy of the legislation’s text can be found by clicking here.