| By Denise Dookeran
The Florida Senate Bill 628 finds it “necessary to distinguish between farms on traditional rural farmland and the emerging trends towards urban agriculture”1 and has created a new program, the Urban Agriculture Pilot Project, under the Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services.
The bill was approved by Governor DeSantis on June 17, 2021 and takes effect on July 1, 2021.1
The first section of SB 628 discusses farm equipment having to be “stored, maintained, or repaired”1 by its owner within the owner’s farm. Additionally, farm equipment must be at least 50 feet away from any public road. These rules do not apply to farm equipment for urban agriculture.
The second section briefly goes over regulations for nonresidential farm buildings, farm fences, and farm signs. Nonresidential farm buildings, farm fences, and farm signs located on agricultural land are “exempt from the Florida Building Code and any county or municipal code or fee, except for code provisions implementing local, state, or federal floodplain management regulations.”1 However, this does not apply to those located on urban agricultural land.
The third section is the “Urban Agriculture Pilot Project Act.” Local governments are authorized to create these projects with regulations from the municipality to determine its “effectiveness and impact”1 in a dense urban area. The area where the urban agriculture project and its activities reside has to be approved by the Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services.
“The Legislature recognizes the ability of urban agriculture to spur economic development by providing for fresh foods in city centers, community revitalization, and the adaptive reuse of vacant lands.”1
Here urban agriculture is defined as “any new or existing noncommercial agricultural uses on land”1 which is (1) in dense urban land area; (2) is not classified as agricultural; (3) is not zoned as agricultural for its principal use; and (4) it is designated by its municipality as an urban agricultural pilot project, approved by the Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services.1 Urban agriculture “does not include vegetable gardens…for personal consumption on residential properties.”1
The the Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services can approve five municipalities in where the urban agricultural pilot projects meet these requirements: (1) Has a population of 250,000+; (2) Presents a proposal describing the pilot project to the department -the description must include it’s location, what products will be grown, “community involvement, anticipated outcomes, nutrition and water use, fertilization management, and any other requirements specified by department rules.”1
The pilot project will “be approved for an initial 3-year period.”1 After the initial period, the Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services and the municipality would have a mutual agreement to renew the project for another 3 years and so on. The project’s municipality has to submit a report detailing “the outcomes and impact of the pilot project to the department by January 1 for each year of the pilot project.”1 The Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services will also submit a report detailing the outcomes and impacts “to the President of the Senate and Speaker of the House of Representatives.”1
The five largest cities in Florida as of this year are Jacksonville with a population of 929,647; Miami, 478,251; Tampa, 404,636; Orlando, 290,520; and St. Petersburg with 267,121.2 So let’s see what’s to come soon in urban agriculture for these cities.