Commissioner Adam H. Putnam


Florida Agriculture: 500 Years in the Making

Commissioner's Agricultural Environmental Leadership Award

2002 Winner

Daniel A. Botts
Orlando, Florida

Start with a solid scientific background and a keen knowledge of crop production, add a desire to aid Florida’s agriculture industry while protecting the environment, combine into one person with seemingly limitless energy and the result is Daniel A. Botts.

For almost a quarter of a century, Botts has worked to solve the problems of Florida’s growers and oversee the needs of the lands and waters on which Florida agriculture depends.

Botts is Director of the Florida Fruit & Vegetable Association’s (FFVA) Environmental and Pest Management Division, which functions as the focal point for grower input at the local, regional and state level and is responsible for pesticide, crop protection and environmental issues both nationally and internationally. He also serves as president of Third Party Registrations, Inc., a non-profit subsidiary of FFVA that provides registration for pest management tools critical to Florida growers.

Botts has a bachelor’s degree in biology and a master’s degree in zoology from Auburn University. A seven-year career as technical director for South Bay Growers, Inc., a diversified agricultural production company in South Florida, preceded his move to FFVA in 1985.

"If anybody had told me that I was going to be working in agriculture when I graduated from college 30 years ago, I would have told them they were crazy," Botts said. "But it’s one of those situations that you fall into and it works out."

Over the past decade, Botts has coordinated the Committee for Agricultural Resources in the Everglades as well as FFVA efforts in the region. He was also involved in the development of the South Florida Water Management District rules requiring implementation of agricultural Best Management Practices (BMP) in the Everglades Agricultural Area.

Success in that area has been tangible. The BMP program reduced phosphorus discharges from local farms by more than 50 percent, and farmers in the area now contribute 173 billion gallons of clean water to the Everglades ecosystem each year. Botts also participated in mediation between the federal government, Florida, and the agriculture industry that resulted in the Everglades Forever Act. Currently he is evaluating statistical data that will be used in establishing an Everglades phosphorus water quality standard.

"There are a lot of good people working to ensure that what comes forward is based on good, solid environmental science and represents a regulatory process that is fair and balanced," Botts said. "And we’ve still got a ways to go."

Recognized as one of the nations’ most highly respected industry representatives on issues of agricultural chemicals, food safety, and the Food Quality Protection Act, Botts has been deeply involved in helping Florida growers deal with increasing marketplace concerns over the potential microbial contamination of fruits and vegetables. Working with federal, state, and university experts, he and his staff developed the Growers Checklist for Microbial Safety on Fresh Produce, a FFVA guide to help producers assess contamination risks in their operations.

One of Botts’ most successful and far-reaching programs has been the Ag Environmental Seminar series. Over the past 13 years, hundreds of growers have come together to learn from experts – and from each other – about topics such as improving pesticides and fertilizer applications, analyzing the impact of over-fertilization on nitrate levels in groundwater, and understanding the details of various regulatory programs in protecting the environment.

Several seminars focused on the role of environmental audits and how growers could avoid future environmental audit problems, thereby eliminating the need for regulatory action. The potential savings for this environmentally conscious approach is estimated to be thousands of dollars for each grower. Botts seeks to identify ways that growers can work to achieve the desired environmental outcome while keeping economic costs manageable. In many cases the seminars help growers accomplish this goal while actually exceeding regulatory expectations.

To facilitate a greater understanding between regulators and the agricultural community, Botts organizes the Spring Regulatory Tour, an annual week-long tour of South Florida agriculture that gives between 35 and 40 regulators and EPA officials a first-hand look at how rules written in a faraway office are actually applied in practice on the farm. In one instance, a tour member has a chance to read and try to follow the instructions on a herbicide label. In another, a regulator gets to don the cumbersome hats, goggles, boots, gloves and protective suits required during pesticide applications, learning how difficult that job can be in the Florida heat. For 15 years, the tour has reached hundreds of key decision-makers, showing them the challenges and opportunities facing Florida growers and giving them information and insight to help them make more informed decisions.

As well as being in constant touch with the regulatory community, Botts maintains an intimate awareness of the many important agricultural and environmental issues around the state.

"You can anticipate issues or challenges that might face the industry, and then it’s our job to go out there and attempt to educate our membership," Botts said. "Hopefully, we can come to some kind of resolution that ends up with everybody being satisfied at the end of the day." -- 2002

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