A sweeping agriculture bill (HB 7091) filed on Tuesday would eliminate a pilot program that monitors problems caused by highly invasive Australian pine trees that are used as windbreaks in citrus groves.
Lawmakers created the 5-year pilot permitting program in 2008, which allowed commercial citrus growers in Martin, St. Lucie and Indian River counties to obtain permits to plant Australian pines as windbreaks in their groves.
Australian pine trees are classified as Category 1 invasive exotic species – considered the most problematic by the Florida Pest Plant Council. According to the Council’s 2013 Management Plan, the tree “produces copious amounts of wind and water dispersed seeds and is able to colonize a wide variety of habitats.” Australian pines are also the source of allergy problems in the spring and early summer.
The trees threaten native plants and because they “easily establishes on sandy shores, which lead to “increased beach erosion and interference with the nesting of endangered sea turtles and crocodiles,” according to the report.
The 122-page bill, introduced by the House Agriculture and Natural Resources Subcomittee and Rep. Cary Pigman, R-Sebring covers a smorgasbord of agricultural issues, from pesticides to food safety. The bill received a unanimous vote from the subcommittee shortly after it was introduced. Among those voting for the bill was Rep. Patrick Rooney, R-Palm Beach Gardens.