New bill could close Andrews Nursery

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By Mark Scohier, Staff writer

Florida’s only state-owned pine tree nursery, located in Chiefland, could be a thing of the past if one state representative has his way.

House Bill 4027: Florida Forest Service, put together by District 7 Florida House Republican Halsey Beshears, seeks to eliminate the Florida Forest Service’s ability to raise and sell pine tree seedlings to the public “for purposes of federal Clarke-Mcnary law,” a law that was established in 1929 to foster “valuable forest growth.”

The bill, if passed, would take effect July 1 and would close down the state-run Andrews Nursery’s pine tree nursery operation, which produces about 8,000,000 pine tree seedlings each year and has been in operation for more than 50 years.

And that’s a proposition that has some concerned.

Lynetta Usher Griner, of Usher Land and Timber, spoke at Monday night’s commission meeting, asking commissioners to approve a resolution opposing the bill put forward by Beshears, who, incidentally, happens to also be the president of Total Landscape Supply and president CFO of Simpson Nurseries, which, among other things, lists pine trees for sale on its website.

“And I’d like to oppose it in the strongest language your attorney can draft,” Griner said. 

Commissioners obliged, voting unanimously in favor of the resolution.

Some have the wrong impression about the timber industry, she said, explaining that silviculture, as compared to many other types of farming, is as about as environmentally friendly as it gets. It helps with water recharge, creating habitat for wildlife and reducing carbon in the atmosphere. But, she said, the state in recent years has been pushing other types of farming, often at the expense of the environment.

 It’s important economically speaking, as well. One study from the University of Florida’s Department of Food and Resource Economics states Florida’s forest products industry contributes more than $8 billion each year in output, “$3.6 billion in value added, $2.7 billion in exports, $2.2 billion in labor and income and more than 68,000 jobs.”

Area business owner Andy Andrews, also at Monday night’s commission meeting, said it would be a bad idea for the state to close the Florida Forests Service’s only pine tree nursery. The issue stems from some state officials not wanting a state-run nursery impeding the “free enterprise” of private business, he said. But sometimes people have a hard time finding pine tree seedlings.

There’s not a lot that government does that private businesses can’t do better, he said, but “in this case, it’s an exception.”