Crist signs invasive species bill

Gov. Crist hands pen to Ag Commissioner Charles Bronson after signing HB 255

Flanked by Agriculture Commissioner Charles Bronson and state Rep. Leonard Bembry, Gov. Charlie Crist this morning signed HB 255 to formalize Florida’s participation with other states in battling invasive pests.

Farmers are struggling within the slumping economy while also battling species such as the tropical soda apple from South America, Bronson said. The plant’s seeds, contained in an orange fruit, are distributed by livestock and wildlife.

“It becomes so invasive you can’t grow a crop, you can’t grow cattle, you can’t do anything if it takes over,” Bronson told reporters during a bill-signing ceremony in the Governor’s Office.

Sponsored by Bembry, a Democrat from Greenville, HB 255 codifies Florida’s participation in the Interstate Pest Control Compact, which consists of 37 states including Florida.

Florida paid $39,342 between 1995 and 2001 to participate in the compact and received $240,522 for noxious weed and tomato virus controls, according to a House staff analysis of HB 255.