Title: 2002 Ag-Environmental: Daniel A. Botts
Type: Agricultural-Environmental Leadership Award
Like the farmers he serves, Dan Botts is out before the sun comes up. Today he’s driving to South Bay to meet with growers regarding clean water in the Everglades. Tomorrow he could be in Tallahassee for a meeting at the Capitol. The next day he could be back at his office in Orlando.
To call him “a man on the go” would be an understatement. As director of the Florida Fruit and Vegetable Association’s environmental and pest management division, Botts constantly travels throughout Florida and to Washington, D.C., in support of agriculture. Because of FFVA’s membership on various national advisory groups, it’s essential that FFVA has a presence in the nation’s capitol. Dan Botts is that presence.
For the last 25 years, Botts has been an advocate for agriculture. Ironically this nationally recognized expert’s background was not in agriculture but rather, zoology.
Dan Botts, Director of Environmental and Pest Management Division, FFVA: If anybody told me that I was going to be working in agriculture 30 years ago when I graduated from college, I would have told them they were crazy. But it’s one of those situations that you fall into and it works out.
Combining a keen knowledge of crop production with a solid scientific background, Botts has been involved in issues such as crop protection, the environment and pesticide management, both nationally and internationally.
One of his greatest achievements was to help forge a greater understanding between regulators and the agricultural community. For the past 15 years, Botts has organized the Spring Regulatory Tour. This annual week-long tour of South Florida agriculture gives regulators and EPA officials a first-hand look at how the rules they write in a faraway office are actually applied on the farm. From following complicated pesticide instructions to donning cumbersome protective gear, tour members learn about the challenges facing Florida growers. The tour has reached hundreds of key decision-makers, giving them insight into the practical realities of farming.
Dan Botts: It’s a little bit of everything from bringing groups together, being the liaison, being the direct conduit, being an education source for information, being a data developer in cases where information needs to be collected or issues need to be resolved that take scientific data to drive the process. We serve all over.
Chip Hinton, Executive Director, Florida Strawberry Growers Association: What is really interesting about Dan is that he’s at his best when you hear the least. Dan Botts is a person that works behind the scenes, influences policy in the most discrete ways, comes up with a vehicle to accomplish things that a lot of people just do not even envision, gets behind the scenes, does the very difficult task of convincing people, educating people and then gets the job done. His best work you never hear about.
Over the past 13 years, FFVA has also conducted the Ag Environmental Seminar series. Growers come together to learn from experts and each other about regulatory programs that deal with pesticides and fertilizer application.
Recognized as one of the nation’s most respected industry reps on issues of agri-chemicals, food safety, and the Food Quality Protection Act, Botts and his staff worked with federal, state and university experts to develop the “Growers Checklist for Microbial Safety on Fresh Produce,” an FFVA guide to help producers assess contamination risks in their operations.
Botts has also worked with the South Florida Water Management District to develop rules for implementing agricultural Best Management Practices in the Everglades Agricultural Area.
Mac Carraway, CFO, Pacific Tomato Growers: He has an immense talent for detail without losing perspective of the big picture. He can relate those issues to just about anybody who is impacted by them. It takes somebody like Dan to help bridge that gap between the technical side of the business and the day-to-day side of the business.
As you can imagine, Dan’s busy schedule often keeps him away from home in Orlando. His wife Susan, an elementary school science teacher, takes it in stride. When he is home he shares his wife’s love of the art of bonsai.
Susan Botts: Dan is one of these people that no matter what he does he does the best job that he can. He takes his responsibilities very seriously, whether it’s being a father or being a husband or working for the FFVA. Whatever it is, he’s going to do it to the best of his ability. He’s always been like that and he probably always will be.
Dan Botts: The thing that makes this job so gratifying is the relationships that you develop with the people not only that you work for and with, with the regulatory folks and other people and just the ability to feel like you’re making a difference in the process. I’ve had growers unsolicited by me and in representation before agencies say things like, it’s through the efforts of this division and our work that we’re able to keep the gates open in the morning to be able to farm. If it wasn’t for the growers I don’t think it could be nearly as much fun or as gratifying as it is. That’s what keeps me going in the process.