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NEWBERRY ‒ Alachua County’s proposed one percent Sales Tax Referendum took center stage in discussions between the City of Newberry and the Board of County Commissioners (BoCC) during their joint meeting Monday, May 23. Having already presented the issue to three other municipalities with lukewarm receptions, county commissioners came armed with facts and figures to ask Newberry’s Commissioners to back the referendum.

Assistant County Manager Gina Peebles introduced the sales tax referendum, which ties together funding for the popular Wild Spaces and Public Places (WSPP) and the unpopular tax for roads.

In past years, Alachua County has asked voters to support a referendum for roads on two occasions, which was defeated both times. However, when they asked the citizens to approve the Wild Spaces and Public Places (WSPP) Referendum with a one-half percent sales tax in 2008 and again in 2016, it was approved.

Dec. 31, 2024, the WSPP one-half percent sales tax sunsets and many municipalities have expressed a desire to continue it. Funds from WSPP have been used throughout the County to improve recreation facilities and to support other related projects.

Voters will be asked on Nov. 8, 2022 whether they would like to extend the WSPP half-cent sales tax along with a half-cent sales tax dedicated to infrastructure through 2032.

The proceeds from the surtax will be split between the County and the municipalities, with each entity required to allocate half to WSPP projects such as parks and recreation, open space and natural resources; the other half will be allocated to other infrastructure projects including road improvements as defined in Florida’s statutes. Up to 15 percent of the non-WSPP half of the surtax may be used to fund economic development projects to improve the local economy.

Allowable projects can include but are not limited to land acquisition; land improvement; costs related to constructing or improving public facilities that have a life expectancy of five years or more; and land acquisition for a residential housing project in which at least 30 percent of the units are affordable to those with a household income not exceeding 120 percent of the area median income.

The county will get over half the funds and the rest distributed to municipalities based on population. The County will also allocate $6 million (half for WSPP projects and half for other infrastructure projects) of its share of the tax to the City of Gainesville “for uses… that Alachua County finds, in its sole discretion, have countywide significance.” Gainesville will have to submit a detailed request for each project.

Another $6 million will be allocated to all the municipalities, including the City of Gainesville. Each municipality can submit detailed requests for funds, but the ordinance does not address how the requests will be prioritized. This will be a one-time allocation of a total of $12 million, not an annual allocation.

The county estimates that the surtax will raise about $49 million in the first year, with almost $28 million going to the county, $17 million to the City of Gainesville, $1.35 million to the City of Alachua, $895,000 to Newberry, $861,000 to High Springs, $189,000 to Hawthorne, $156,000 to Archer, $124,000 to Waldo, $87,000 to Micanopy and $51,000 to La Crosse.

Alachua county residents have long complained about the condition of the county-maintained roads. Alachua County Commissioner Chuck Chestnut said that citizens have told the county to improve the roads with the existing money they are receiving each year. He said they have done so as much as they could, but that more funds are required to maintain the roads properly.

Peebles said the county can only have one surtax at a time, which is why the county commission is proposing a one-half percent sales tax for WSPP and another one-half percent sales tax for roads and infrastructure maintenance.

Alachua County Public Works Director and Engineer Ramon Gavarrette said that the cost for road work has increased by 30 – 40 percent and that many of the roads are failing. If this referendum passes, he said the county commission is targeting $50 million per year for roads, which will come from several sources.

Newberry City Commissioner Rick Coleman said his constituents were concerned about the county taking land off of the tax rolls and using the citizens money to do it.

Mayor Jordan Marlowe expressed concern that if voters buy into the system proposed by Gavarrette and he moves on to another city, someone else who comes into the job may throw out the old plan for a new one. Marlowe doesn’t want to keep developing plans—he wants the county to have a plan and stick to it. Coleman said buying land is not right, but something has to be done about the roads.

Newberry City Commissioner Tim Marden said the county’s priorities haven’t been right, but Marlowe pointed out that this is not the same county commission Newberry has dealt with in the past and pointed to several successful joint projects this county commission and the city have been able to accomplish recently.

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ALACHUA COUNTY - The UF/IFAS Extension Alachua County Office has announced the 2022 4-H Summer Day Camps. These camps are being offered by Mary Lee Sale, 4-H Youth Development Agent, at the Alachua County Ag Auditorium (22716 W. Newberry Road, Newberry) unless otherwise indicated.
 
Food Challenge Day Camp – June 14 – 16, from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m.
 
Youth between the ages of 11-18 years old (ages are as of September 1, 2021), who are interested in cooking and food preparation, can attend this day camp to learn more about food safety and best practices in the kitchen. Campers must wear closed-toe shoes and tie back long hair.
 
At the end of this camp, youth teams will compete in a Food Challenge using a provided pantry and one mystery ingredient.
 
Camp registration fee is $200.00 (includes lunch). Limited to 20 campers.
 
Wilderness Survival Day Camp – June 28 – 29, from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m., at Poe Springs Park (28800 N.W. 182 Avenue, High Springs)
 
Youth between the ages of 8-12 years old (ages are as of September 1, 2021) and are interested in learning how to survive in nature should attend this day camp. Campers will learn how to start fires, navigation, building shelters, edible plants, and more. This camp will take place at Poe Springs Park, and youth will be outdoors practicing the skills they learn. All campers should wear closed-toed shoes, long pants, and bug spray. Each camper should bring a bagged lunch and refillable water bottle.
 
Camp registration fee is $100.00. This program is limited to 16 campers.
 
Aqua Adventures Day Camp – July 12 – 13, from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m.
 
Youth between the ages of 8-12 years old (ages are as of September 1, 2021), who are interested in learning more about water from the springs to the inner city should attend this day camp. The focus of the camp will be on water and the environment. Youth will have the opportunity to follow water through Gainesville, visit a local spring, learn about pollution and conservation, and more. Each camper should pack their swimsuits, towels, and a bagged lunch with a refillable water bottle.
 
Camp registration fee is $150.00. This program is limited to 16 campers.
 
Registration must be completed through 4-H Online in conjunction with paying through Eventbrite. Both 4-H Online and Eventbrite must be completed for campers to be fully registered. Visit v2.4honline.com to create a member profile and join the “Alachua County 4-H Day Camps” club. 4-H Online profiles will need to be approved prior to camp registration, and this approval can take up to three business days. Participants will receive an Eventbrite payment link after their registration has been submitted.
 
For more information regarding these summer day camps, visit the 4-H website or contact Mary Lee Sale, 4-H Youth Development Agent, at msale@ufl.edu or call 352-955-2402. These camps are opened to all youth. Visit Extension Office website for additional programs offered by the Extension Office.
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NEWBERRY ‒ The Newberry Watermelon Festival was back for its 77th annual celebration on Saturday, May 21.  The annual festival brought out thousands who enjoyed sweet and juicy watermelon, games and activities for the young and not-so-young alike, and entertainment.

The nation’s longest-running watermelon festival was held at the CountryWay Town Square. The festival featured more than 100 vendors offering items for sale, food and drink, nonprofits sharing information, and politicians promoting their 2022 campaigns. There was also plenty of activities for kids including bounce houses, face painting and pony rides. As in previous years, the free slices of watermelon were popular with the crowd.

The event started at 10 a.m. with a parade in downtown Newberry featuring floats sponsored by local businesses and organizations that included a golf cart decoration contest. At the Country Way Town Center, some 100 vendors lined the streets and at the gazebo, K Country 93.7 FM announced events along with singer and DJ Brandon McFarlan.

The previous week the festival committee had held its annual pageant for naming the annual Newberry Watermelon Queen, teen queen and junior queens.  Kensley Catelynn Durrance was crowned the 2022 Newberry Watermelon Queen, Ashlee Thomas was crowned the 2022 Newberry Watermelon Ms. Teen Queen and Laney Grinstead was crowned the 2022 Newberry Watermelon Teen Queen. The Newberry City Commission also awarded Bethany Barfield with a key to the city. Barfield was the Newberry Watermelon Queen in 2019 and then went on to win the Florida Watermelon Queen for 2020-21 before claiming the National Watermelon Queen title.

Watermelon festival traditional events included the popular pet contest featuring four dogs. Link, Duchess, Callie and Ellie Mae won prizes for Best Dressed Boy, Best Dressed Girl, Best Behaved and Best Overall, respectively. There was a hog calling contest and the traditional watermelon seed spitting contest that has been held every year featuring local politicians competing for bragging rights for the longest spit.

Last year, Alachua County Sheriff Clovis Watson, Jr. took the crown from Congresswomen Kat Cammack with a 23-foot mark.  The winning marks this year were much farther than Watson's record last year. Daniel Fisher, running for Alachua County School Board, launched a watermelon seed 41 feet. He won the contest with that shot, leaving Newberry City Commissioner Mark Clark in second place with 37 feet.

Newberry’s Watermelon Festival started in 1946 after the end of World War II.  A group of local citizens decided to hold a festival celebrating the area’s watermelon production and the Newberry Watermelon Festival was born. The event has now been held yearly on the third Saturday in May.  

The festival is organized and produced by a committee of local residents with the support of the city and business sponsors. The actual event is produced with a large group of volunteers, including Police Explorers who help manage traffic and parking. Sponsors provide donations either as cash or in-kind products. The festival also receives additional funds through a $5 parking fee. Some of the money raised funds four $1,000 scholarships for Newberry High School seniors to cover tuition and books to attend Santa Fe College. Any additional money goes to the schools for supplies and to the Red Cross for any local need that arises.

While last year’s festival was smaller due to COVID-19 health concerns, the crowds were back in full this year. Just like its beginning in 1946 after World War II, the festival again brought a sense of community and return to normalcy.

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HIGH SPRINGS ‒ For many Americans, Memorial Day is a three-day weekend to travel, enjoy the outdoors or party. The original meaning of the holiday may be acknowledged, but oftentimes little is done to honor it during their weekend plans. For others, the true meaning of Memorial Day carries a more somber quality as we remember those who served and did not return as well as those who came back but have since passed. This is the real meaning of Memorial Day.

On May 28, the High Springs Lions Club will host a Memorial Day concert to raise funds for a Gold Star Monument in Gainesville. Although all who serve deserve respect and appreciation, those who did not come back deserve more in recognition of a life cut short by war, leaving families and friends to mourn the emptiness of their loss. Their families suddenly belong a singular group that no one wants to join, known as a Gold Star Family.

What sets Gold Star families apart and makes them special is the sacrifice they have made and the loved one they have lost in military service to the country. That death is not only a devastating loss of their loved one – it can often also seem like the loss of an identity, of a community, changing lives forever. There is another group that is strongly affected by these lives lost, and that group is their fellow soldiers who survived, remembering the comrades who didn’t come home.

Hershel “Woody” Williams was born on a dairy farm in 1923 in Quiet Dell, West Virginia. He enlisted in the United States Marine Corps and served in the Battle of Iwo Jima. Williams’ actions, commitment to his fellow service members, and heroism during Iwo Jima were recognized on Oct. 5, 1945, when he received the Congressional Medal of Honor from President Truman at the White House. Williams is now the sole surviving Marine from WWII to wear the Medal of Honor.

As War II began, Williams came into direct contact with families in his own community when he delivered Western Union telegrams informing the Gold Star families of the death of their loved one. Williams says that those experiences gave him a “greater appreciation for life and an understanding of a difference in death in the normal world as expected in life, and those lost serving in the military for their country.”

Williams noted that “consideration and recognition of the families of those lost in military service was very inadequate.” This observation and his personal commitment to veterans and their families brought about the creation of the Woody Williams Foundation The foundation’s goal is to honor these families by creating large granite Gold Star Monuments in every state. To date, Williams and his foundation are responsible for establishing 96 Gold Star Families Memorial Monuments across the United States with more than 79 additional monuments underway in 50 states and one U.S. Territory. They are currently building one in Gainesville.

Eric “Roscoe” Mattingly is a 100 percent disabled veteran of the Iraq War who was injured during the battle for Taji. When he returned from the war and mindful of his injuries, he sought a career that was achievable. Mattingly had always loved music and earned a degree in Live Show Production from Full Sail University. He has continued producing music shows and as a veteran he became involved with the Woody Williams Foundation and their Gainesville project. By organizing a benefit concert to raise funds for the Gold Star Monument.

The High Springs Lions Club and the Military Vets MC Club have a large stage and plenty of audience space. They have hosted a number of benefit concerts at their location and were happy to coordinate with Mattingly to produce the show. Mattingly contacted regional bands he had worked with who would provide their time and talent for a concert. The concert will be dedicated in honor of four local soldiers who paid the ultimate price—including Sergeant Campbell, Lance Corporal Clark and Staff Sergeant Reiners.

On May 28, the High Springs Lions Club will host Mattingly's “Roscoe's Memorial Day Celebra-Jam” featuring four Florida bands. Starting at 2 p.m., The Huligans from Jacksonville will take the stage. Dustin Monk and the Hustle are another Jacksonville band. Trae Pierce and the T-Stones are based in Miami and are four-time Grammy winners. Jesse Smith is originally from High Springs but is now based in New Orleans and New York. His band, Jasper Smitty & Gumbo Funk will close out the concert.

The show costs $25, which, after expenses, will go to fund the Gainesville Gold Star Monument. The concert takes place at 26900 U.S. Hwy 27 in High Springs. Gates open at noon in an outdoor venue and chairs are suggested. On this Memorial Day weekend, this is a concert for a good cause to honor the soldiers who paid the supreme price and the shattered families they left behind.

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ALACHUA COUNTY - With summer quickly approaching, Alachua County Fire Rescue (ACFR) reminds parents and other community members to be safe when children are enjoying their time in and around pools or Alachua County’s waterways.
 
Drowning is the leading cause of death for children one to four years old, and although children are more prone to drowning, anyone can drown. About 3,400 people drown each year in the United States. These events happen quickly and silently. Fortunately, drowning is preventable.
 
Before the splashing begins, teach children about pool and water safety. Children should learn how to swim before jumping into the water and should also be taught to stay away from drains and other outlets.
 
Families with a pool at home should install alarms and a four-sided fence surrounding the pool. These devices can limit a child’s access and will notify parents if anyone is in the pool. Life jackets also reduce the risk of drowning, and children should wear one if needed. Additionally, make sure that a first aid kit and other rescue equipment are easily accessible. To take extra precautions, parents should take CPR classes to be prepared in case of an emergency.
 
Parents and guardians should always supervise children in or near water and never leave them unattended.
 

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GAINESVILLE– Celebrate Juneteenth with special programs across the Alachua County Library District throughout June.

All branches will host programs in June to commemorate the emancipation of enslaved African Americans in 1865. Events include read-ins at the Alachua and Hawthorne branches, craft programs at Archer, Micanopy, and Waldo branches, and a podcast by the Library Partnership Branch featuring Dr. David Canton, director of the African American Studies Program at the University of Florida.

“We are proud to celebrate Juneteenth with a variety of programs for children, teens, and adults. We hope these events provide an opportunity for patrons to learn more about the holiday and celebrate the date,” said Library Director Shaney T. Livingston.

All events are free and open to the public. Registration is required for some programs and seats can be reserved at www.aclib.us/events or by calling your preferred branch. The full schedule of programs is as follows:

From Emancipated to Entrepreneur, June 5, 3 p.m., Newberry Branch, all ages, registration required
Antoinette Chanel, author and founder of Feathered Press Indie Publisher, will reflect on the importance of Juneteenth, and how its meaning informs her work as an author, an artist, and an advocate. 

Juneteenth Celebration Read-In, June 12, 2:30 p.m., Alachua Branch, all ages
This mini festival will feature readings by Alachua County Poet Laureate E. Stanley Richardson and Carol Velasques Richardson, song performance by a local youth group, and speakers including Alachua Mayor Gib Coerper. Meet local author Tabitha Jenkins, visit the craft tent, and enjoy refreshments.

Creativity for Change, June 14, 3 p.m., Archer Branch, ages 12-18
Make buttons and discuss how we can positively create change in our communities.

Story Time on the Green programs, 10:30 a.m., ages infant-5
Gather for songs and stories, including readings of Juneteenth for Mazie by Floyd Cooper and similar books.

  • June 15 at Headquarters Library, Archer and High Springs branches, and Hawthorne Recreation Park with the Hawthorne Branch team
  • June 16 at Waldo Branch and Veterans Memorial Park playground with the Tower Road Branch team

Juneteenth ArtSpace, June 15, 3 p.m. Waldo Branch, all ages
Celebrate Juneteenth with an art project inspired by Kente cloth from Ghana and discover the rich symbolism of colors and designs.

Teen/Tween Book Club, June 15, 4 p.m. Headquarters Branch, ages 12-18, registration required

Discuss the book Ghost Boys by Jewell Parker Rhodes.

Patrons and Partners Podcast featuring Dr. David Canton, director of the African American Studies Program at the University of Florida, posting June 16 by the Library Partnership Branch
Dr. David Canton is an associate professor of history at the University of Florida. He teaches courses on civil rights, hip hop music and culture, and introduction to African American Studies.

Juneteenth Story Time, June 16, 10:30 a.m., ages infant-5, registration required
Share songs of jubilee, Juneteenth themed books, and a coloring craft.

Depot Park Story Time, June 16, 10:30 a.m. Depot Park, ages infant-five
Gather for songs and stories, including a reading of Juneteenth for Mazie by Floyd Cooper.

Juneteenth Book Talk, June 16, 3 p.m., Zoom and Facebook, ages 5-11
Check out fiction and nonfiction reads for children to celebrate Juneteenth and Black history.

Juneteenth: Celebration of Freedom, June 16, 3 p.m., Millhopper Branch, ages 12-18, registration preferred
Learn about the history and importance of Juneteenth, and then explore what freedom means to you through a papercraft.

Freedom Collages, June 17, 3 p.m., Micanopy Branch, all ages
Explore what it means to be free by learning about the history of Juneteenth and creating your picture of freedom using images and words from magazines, paint, glue, markers, and more.

Juneteenth Celebration, 3:30 p.m., June 17, Cone Park Branch, ages infant-5
Come for story time and a craft to celebrate Juneteenth, plus contribute to a group mural.

Harriet – Juneteenth Movie, June 18, 12 p.m., Library Partnership Branch, adults
Watch the award-winning biopic, Harriet, starring Cynthia Erivo, Leslie Odom Jr., Janelle Monae, and Joe Alwyn.

Juneteenth Read-In @ HAW, June 25, 2:30 p.m., Hawthorne Branch
Come for a program rich in African American history and culture and celebrate works by African American authors and artists.

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TALLAHASSEE - On May 22, Florida angler, Dale Dew, caught the first pink-tagged bass of the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission’s (FWC) TrophyCatch 10-Tag Celebration. Dew will receive a $5,000 gift card to Bass Pro Shops and $1,000 to shop at AFTCO. This catch also means he has a chance to win an additional $10,000, which will be awarded at a ceremony this fall.

FWC biologists tagged this specific largemouth bass in February on Lake Griffin. Dew caught the fish near the same spot it was tagged, using a plastic worm. He successfully submitted his catch according to TrophyCatch rules.

Dew is originally from Antiqua and he and his family now live in central Florida. While he was not originally going fishing for the pink tag, he saw a sign about the promotion that day.

“It was the first time we heard about it, and we were like, ‘Whoa what’s this? We aren't going to catch it. We’re two guys who can’t fish!’” said Dale Dew, the first lucky angler to catch a pink-tagged largemouth bass. “We don’t have all the nice equipment or a nice bass boat but we got lucky and caught it! So, it could be any ordinary person who catches it. You never know, it’s crazy.”

Nine more pink-tagged bass are swimming in other waterbodies across the state: Newnans Lake; Lake George; Lake Talquin; Lake Walk-in-Water; Tenoroc Fish Management Area; Lake Trafford; Lake Istokpoga; Lake Rousseau; and Johns Lake. Anglers have until the end of September to fish for these special, prized fish.

To celebrate Season 10 of the TrophyCatch program, biologists with the FWC tagged and released 10 largemouth bass with bright pink tags in 10 different locations across the state. Anglers should check the TrophyCatch website for rules and updates.

The TrophyCatch program rewards anglers who provide documentation of their catch and release of largemouth bass weighing 8 pounds or heavier in Florida. To be eligible for prizes, anglers are required to submit photos or videos of their catch to TrophyCatch.com, showing the entire fish and its weight on a scale, before releasing it back into the water. Participants are also automatically entered in a free boat drawing just for registering. FWC biologists use TrophyCatch data for bass research to make informed decisions about the management of Florida bass fisheries and to promote the catch and release of trophy bass. The associated TrophyCare program promotes best handling practices for trophy bass to ensure that each TrophyCatch bass is released alive.

For the latest news about the TrophyCatch 10-TAG Celebration subscribe to the program’s topic email (select “TrophyCatch” under “Freshwater Fishing”). For more information about the TrophyCatch program or the 10-TAG Celebration, email KP Clements at Kp.Clements@MyFWC.com

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TALLAHASSEE, - Today, the Florida Department of Economic Opportunity (DEO) is encouraging businesses throughout the state to prepare for the 2022 Atlantic Hurricane Season, which begins June 1. DEO urges businesses to prepare for the upcoming hurricane season by visiting FloridaDisaster.biz, which provides business owners with resources to prepare for potential disasters, critical updates during a disaster, and post-disaster resources to help Florida’s businesses recover and Floridians return to work.

 During the Disaster Preparedness Sales Tax Holiday, which runs from Saturday, May 28 to Friday, June 10, business owners can also purchase some equipment to prepare their businesses for a disaster tax-free, including batteries, tarps and generators. A full list of eligible tax-free items is available here.

 “Thanks to Governor DeSantis’ strong leadership, Florida businesses have access to the resources they need to prepare for disasters and make a quick recovery following a disaster,” said DEO Secretary Dane Eagle. “FloridaDisaster.biz enables businesses to make the best decisions for their employees and business operations during disaster events, and DEO encourages all businesses to utilize this valuable tool.”

 Taking the steps to build a business disaster continuity plan, as well as encouraging employees to create a family emergency plan, can reduce the financial and physical impact that a disaster can have on businesses. 

For information about how to create a plan, what to include in a disaster kit, where to find storm updates, and more information, please visit the resources below:

  •  FloridaDisaster.org is maintained by the Division of Emergency Management, with resources and information about what businesses should do during and after a disaster.
  • FloridaDisaster.biz is a partnership between DEO and the Florida Division of Emergency Management that provides a hub for businesses before, during, and after emergencies.

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GAINESVILLE – The Cade Museum for Creativity and Invention invites applications for its 13th Annual Cade Prize for Innovation. Inventors and entrepreneurs in Florida, Georgia and Alabama may apply June 1 – August 1, 2022. 

“The Cade Prize for Innovation supports an ecosystem of invention throughout the Southeast,” said Richard Miles, Cade Prize Committee Chair. “It rewards early-stage ideas with the promise to change the world and fuel billion-dollar economies.” 

This year’s Cade Prize is one of the largest cash prize competitions for innovation in Florida, awarding $64,000: $34,000 for first place, $13,000 for second place, $8,000 for third place, $5,000 for fourth place, $3,000 for fifth place and $1,000 for the People’s Choice. Each winner also receives $2,000 of in-kind legal services. 

Designed to help early-stage inventors move beyond invention and into the marketplace, the Cade Prize provides capital to help secure patents, licensing, manufacturing, distribution and marketing.  

The Cade Prize awards candidates whose work addresses critical issues impacting the Southeast: Agriculture/Environment, Health Care/Biomedicine, IT/Technology, Energy and a Wild Card category. Applicants do not need to have a working prototype. 

Since 2010, hundreds of inventors with groundbreaking inventions have applied for the coveted prize. Some have achieved great success. “Winning the Cade Prize helped take us from an invention to a sustained business,” said 2010 Cade Prize winner, Ethan Fieldman, co-founder of Tutor Matching Service.  

 Fieldman and his team developed Tutor Matching Service, a website and Facebook application matching college students with educators from around the world. “Winning the Cade Prize validated our proof of concept, led to industry-wide support and an explosion of sales,” he said. After many universities partnered with the company, it attracted a multi-million dollar investment from several venture capitalists to expand its offering to an app. In 2021, Fieldman sold the business to the Carlyle Group and enjoys staying connected with the Cade Museum team. 

To be eligible, individuals or companies may have no more than $500,00 in outside investment such as funding from investors in exchange for stock or convertible notes. R1 research universities in Alabama, Georgia and Florida are invited to nominate one entry for automatic inclusion to the first round of judging. Applications may be submitted virtually at cadeprize.awardsplatform.com with a $55 application fee. 

The first round of judging, to determine the 21 Fibonacci Finalists - named after the 11th century Italian mathematician who created the building blocks of Western mathematics – is August 15, 2022. The Fibonacci Finalists are invited to the Cade Museum in Gainesville, Florida for a public Q & A about their inventions on September 8, 2022. The Cade Prize Awards Ceremony takes place at the Cade Museum for Creativity and Invention on September 29, 2022.  

This year’s Cade Prize is sponsored by Scott R. MacKenzie, Florida Trend, Modern Luxury, James Moore Certified Public Accountants and Consultants, Community Foundation of North Central Florida, and Saliwanchik, Lloyd & Eisenschenk law firm. To learn more about the Cade Prizevisit cademuseum.org/cadeprize

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ALACHUA COUNTY – The Alachua County Tax Collector’s office has been awarded the 2022 Governor’s Sterling Award for performance excellence in management and operations.

The Sterling award is presented annually to organizations and businesses that meet or exceed the Sterling/Baldrige National Criteria for Performance Excellence – a framework for achieving and sustaining organizational performance excellence and efficiency. The Tax Collector’s office is the only organization in the state of Florida receiving the prestigious award this year.

The award follows a rigorous assessment process based on criteria from seven categories:  leadership; strategic planning; customer focus; measurement analysis, and knowledge management; workforce focus; operations; and results. 

The Sterling Council’s panel of judges consists of six judges that are nationally and internationally recognized experts on organizational performance excellence in the Sterling/Baldridge Management System.  Throughout the last four years, the Alachua County Tax Collector’s office boasts high performance ratings exceeding their comparative peer groups.

“We are an organization focused on continual improvement with the goal of mastering all aspects of organizational efficiency. This award shows the citizens of Alachua County our office is committed to excellence and is achieving great success,” said Alachua County Tax Collector John Power. “I respect and admire every member of our team and thank them for their dedication and hard work. Receiving this award from the Sterling Council is an honor for our team and the entire community.”

The Alachua County Tax Collector’s office acts as an agent for multiple local and state agencies, providing a wide range of services to the public.  Total collections are approximately $390 million annually in taxes and fees, which are distributed among 25 taxing authorities.  The Tax Collector also provides services for Motor Vehicle titles and registrations, Driver Licenses including road tests, Concealed Weapons licenses, and Birth Certificates.

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TALLAHASSEE – With the 2022 Hurricane Season quickly approaching, Chief Financial Officer (CFO) Jimmy Patronis is urging Floridians to use the 2022 Disaster Preparedness Sales Tax Holiday to save money on hurricane supplies. Beginning this Saturday, consumers will be able to purchase much needed hurricane-preparation supplies tax-free. This 14-day tax holiday allows Floridians to prepare for hurricane season while saving money on disaster preparedness items such as flashlights under $40, batteries less than $50, tarps under $100, generators less than $1,000, and more.
CFO Jimmy Patronis said, “The 2022 Disaster Preparedness Sales Tax Holiday starts this weekend and now is the time to prepare for what is predicted to be a busy hurricane season. I am encouraging Floridians to take advantage of the special savings between May 28th – June 10th on emergency supplies, such as batteries, flashlights, generators, items for your pets, and so much more. There is nothing more important than having a disaster plan in place to protect you, your family, and your home. As we’ve seen before, hurricanes can intensify and develop fast so don’t wait until it’s too late. Prepare now to keep your family safe during storms while saving money in the process.”
 
More information and a full list of tax-free disaster preparedness items can be found here.
 
CFO Patronis’ disaster preparedness website, Prepare Florida, contains a host of resources to protect your home and help you insure, secure, and recover in the event of a storm. Visit PrepareFL.com for more information.

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Tallahassee, Fla. – On May 19, 2022, the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services (FDACS) Office of Agricultural Law Enforcement (OALE) arrested Terrance Jamahl Allen of Wyoming, Michigan after approximately 1,900 pounds of cannabis was found in his vehicle following his failure to enter and submit for inspection at an Agricultural Interdiction Station off Interstate 10 in Suwannee County.

OALE officers stopped Terrance Jamahl Allen of Wyoming, Michigan, for failing to enter Agricultural Interdiction Station 6A and submit for inspection. Allen, driving a rented six-wheel U-Haul truck, was found to be transporting a large amount of cannabis (64 boxes for a total weight of 1907.8 lbs). Allen was booked into the Suwannee County Jail on the following charges with bond set at $1,037,000:  

  1. One count FS 893.135.1a Trafficking cannabis over 25 lbs.; Felony 
  2. One count FS 322.212 Possession of Fictitious Identification; Felony 
  3. One count FS 322.212.1a Possess or Display Fictitious Identification; Felony 
  4. One count FS 570.15 Failure to Stop for Agricultural Inspection; Misdemeanor  
  5. One count FS 843.02 Resisting Arrest Without Violence; Misdemeanor

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May is Mental Health Awareness Month. As a volunteer and advocate with the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention, this month I am asking everyone to join us and demand #MoreForMentalHealth.

I am doing more by calling on my legislators at the federal and state levels to support legislation that will fund the implementation of 988 and the suicide and mental health crisis system across our nation, particularly for those in underserved communities.

Currently, the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline is available at 1-800-273-8255 and de-escalates the crises of tens of thousands of callers each day. On July 16, those in distress and those that support them will be able to reach the Lifeline through a simple 3-digit number: 988.

By making the Lifeline more accessible through this shorter number, calls, texts, and chats to the Lifeline's network of crisis call centers are expected to increase. It is vital that the federal government work with states to ensure callers in distress will have: 1) someone to call, 2) someone to come help, and 3) somewhere safe to go.

We must act NOW to secure funding to equip call centers and community crisis response services throughout the country with the staff and resources to respond to everyone in crisis.

Join me this month in urging our federal and state public officials to do #MoreForMentalHealth. You can start by visiting moreformentalhealth.org.

Together, we can help #StopSuicide.

Peggy Portwine

Alachua, Florida

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“I say to you today, my friends, though, even though we face the difficulties of today and tomorrow, I still have a dream. It is a dream deeply rooted in the American dream. I have a dream that one day this nation will rise up, live out the true meaning of its creed: ‘We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal.’” These words are as moving today as when first spoken by Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., the passionate and influential civil rights leader who stood as a “pillar of hope and a model of grace” in his fight towards equality for all.

On January 17, we will reflect on the life and legacy of Dr. King, who, with his brave supporters, stood in strong opposition to racial discrimination, as well as the wrongful and unequal treatment of people who differed in national origin and religious beliefs.

The State of Florida continues to carry Dr. King’s legacy forward, committed to ending discrimination and ensuring all within our state have fair and equal access to employment and housing - because every person deserves to live the American Dream. The Florida Commission on Human Relations (FCHR) was established in 1969 to enforce the Florida Civil Rights Act and address discrimination through education, outreach, and partnership. Annually, the FCHR recognizes and honors Floridians who advance civil rights throughout the state in the Florida Civil Rights Hall of Fame.

As we take this time to honor Dr. King, let us consider how we can improve our own communities. Everyone should have the opportunity to live the American Dream. Dr. King paved the way for our society to embrace equality, and it is our job as Americans and Floridians to ensure the civil rights of all people.

Angela Primiano, Vice-Chair

Florida Commission on Human Relations

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Floridians,

This week, I announced the new Mental Health Care Service webpage on the Department of Financial Services (DFS) website, which aims to provide resources and assistance to mental health services for consumers. This past legislative session, HB 701 was signed by Governor DeSantis and establishes new communication duties for health insurers and HMOs and creates reporting requirements for DFS.

I’m proud to provide Floridians with resources they need to seek vital treatment so they can live a healthier life. As we’ve seen throughout the pandemic, mental health challenges are on the rise nationwide, especially within our first responder and front-line healthcare communities. Thank you to Governor Ron DeSantis, First Lady Casey DeSantis and the Florida Legislature for stressing the importance of mental health resources in our communities.

On Tuesday, I recognized, October 12th, as National Savings Day and urged Floridians to make saving a priority to secure their financial well-being. Saving is the cornerstone of a strong financial foundation. Setting money aside each month allows families to handle unexpected costs or prepare for future expenses, like college tuition. As your CFO, I remain focused on ensuring all Floridians have the tools they need to make their hard-earned money work for them. For information about financial literacy programs available through the Department, please visit Your Money Matters, which is a one-stop shop for tips and resources to help Floridians manage their finances wisely.

Lastly, in recognition of National Cybersecurity Awareness Month, I encouraged Floridians to 'Be Cyber Smart' and raised awareness in an effort to stay safe and secure online. Recently, officials are warning consumers of a new scam where fraudsters are creating fake Google Voice accounts to scam people without being detected. Scammers are always searching for new ways to trick their next victim and using fake Google Voice accounts is their latest ploy. I encourage all individuals and businesses to take action today to 'Be Cyber Smart' and learn how to protect your identity online to ensure you don’t fall victim. Learn about the latest scams and report signs of fraud immediately at FraudFreeFlorida.com

Jimmy Patrons

State of Florida CFO

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With Memorial Day behind us and Independence Day on the horizon, I’m happy to report that our state parks have never been more popular.

Our beaches – two of which were recently named among the 10 best in America by beach guru Dr. Beach – and our springs have attracted a record number of visitors, and we expect that trend to continue in the weeks and months ahead.

Not only that, but our campsites are filling up too as more people discover the joys of camping and RVing.

As it turns out, now is a great time to plan an overnight stay. June is National Camping Month, and the Florida Park Service has just launched a new reservation system that provides our visitors with quicker, easier access to their favorite parks.

The new system shows clearly which parks and sites are available for camping and provides online users with a streamlined process for making reservations. Additionally, campers can now reserve same-day accommodations, which is something that we’ve been wanting to implement for a long time.

The changes will also be apparent at each park’s ranger station, as we’ve updated our point-of-sale system to be more modernized and, most importantly, faster. That means less time at the park gates and more time inside the park.

You might also notice welcome additions such as the ability to be notified when a site becomes available. And, in the future, we’ll be looking to add expanded reservation capabilities for Florida residents.

When thinking about your favorite parks, you might remember an unforgettable paddling adventure or boat tour. But take a moment to consider the park operations needed to offer our visitors the best experiences possible.

Food sales, camp stores, kayak rentals, ferries and trams are services that we could not provide if not for a specially selected group of businesses – many of them owned locally. These companies and their employees are a part of our park community, and they’re just as committed as regular park staff to making your visit safe and enjoyable.

The business that helps us with reservations is just one of our partners that help make 800,000 acres, 30 springs and 100 miles of beaches special places to visit.     

Eric Draper

Director, Florida State Parks

 

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World Elder Abuse Awareness Day is on June 15. On this day, and throughout the month, communities, seniors, caregivers, governments, organizations, and the private sector unite to prevent the mistreatment of and violence against older people.

Social Security imposter scams are widespread across the United States. Scammers use sophisticated tactics to deceive you into providing sensitive information or money. They target everyone – even the elderly – and their tactics continue to evolve.

Most recently, Social Security’s Office of the Inspector General (OIG) has received reports of phone scammers creating fake versions of the identification badges most Federal employees use to gain access to Federal buildings. The scammers may text or email photos of the fake badges to convince potential victims of their legitimacy. These badges use government symbols, words, and even names and photos of real people, which are available on government websites or through internet searches.

If you receive a suspicious letter, text, email, or call, hang up or do not respond. You should know how to identify when it’s really Social Security. We will NEVER:

  • Text or email images of an employee’s official government identification.
  • Suspend your Social Security number.
  • Threaten you with arrest or other legal action unless you immediately pay a fine or fee.
  • Require payment by retail gift card, wire transfer, internet currency, or cash by mail.
  • Promise a benefit increase or other assistance in exchange for payment.
  • Send official letters or reports containing your personal information via email.

We only send text messages if you have opted in to receive texts from us and only in limited situations, including the following:

  • When you have subscribed to receive updates and notifications by text.
  • As part of our enhanced security when accessing your personal my Social Security account.

If you owe money to us, we will mail you a letter with payment options and appeal rights.

We encourage you to report suspected Social Security imposter scams — and other Social Security fraud — to the OIG website at oig.ssa.gov. You may read our previous Social Security fraud advisories at oig.ssa.gov/newsroom/news-release. Please share this information with your friends and family to help spread awareness about Social Security imposter scams.

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The first drug developed to treat alcohol use disorder (AUD), the modern term for alcoholism, was disulfiram (Antabuse). Today disulfiram is still used, but as a second line William Garst HSdrug behind acamprosate (Campral) and naltrexone (Revia, Vivitrol). Disulfiram works by blocking the enzymatic breakdown of alcohol and allowing a metabolite to build up in the blood, producing very unpleasant effects. People taking disulfiram will be deterred from ingesting alcohol because they know they will become very ill. The drug is used as an aid to help alcoholics overcome their cravings and addiction.

Disulfiram (a compound that contains sulfur) was first synthesized in 1881 as an industrial chemical, and in the early 1900s was introduced in the manufacturing of rubber. Adding sulfur in rubber manufacturing produces varying degrees of hardness in the final rubber compound.

During the late 1930s sulfur compounds, including disulfiram, were being investigated because of the antimicrobial effects of drugs containing sulfur, and the search was intense. Two scientists at the Danish firm of Medicinalco, Erik Jacobson and Jens Hald, began investigating disulfiram for treatment of intestinal parasites. This company had a group of employees called the “Death Battalion” who would experiment on themselves.

During this phase of testing the drug on themselves, they discovered they became ill after ingesting alcohol. This discovery was made in 1945, but a few years later disulfiram was considered to be used in the treatment of alcoholism as an aversive-reaction drug therapy. Jacobson and Hald’s work was finally published in 1948 and disulfiram was approved by the FDA in 1951.

The discovery of disulfiram led to a renewed interest in the metabolism of alcohol in the body. It was known alcohol was metabolized in the liver and broken down to acetaldehyde then to acetic acid and carbon dioxide by unknown enzymes. In 1950 it was discovered that disulfiram blocked the action of the enzyme that converts acetaldehyde, thus causing an accumulation of acetaldehyde in the bloodstream, which is the cause of the unpleasant effects.

Effects that occur when disulfiram is taken with alcohol include flushing, sweating, nausea and vomiting, chest pain, shortness of breath, and lightheadedness. One should not take disulfiram within 12 hours of alcohol ingestion or 14 days from the last dose of the drug. In addition, products that contain alcohol such as aftershave, cologne, perfume, antiperspirant, and mouthwash can produce unpleasant reactions for people taking Antabuse. Other products to avoid are paint thinners, solvents, and stains, along with dyes, resins and waxes, because even small amounts of alcohol absorbed through the skin can produce the effects.

Other drugs can produce adverse reactions, commonly called the “antabuse-like reaction.” The most notable of these drugs are metronidazole (Flagyl, an antibiotic), griseofulvin (an antifungal), and some cephalosporin antibiotics. If a drug is known to have this side effect, it should be pointed out to the patient by the prescriber and the pharmacist. Always read the drug information given to you when starting a new medication that tells you about side effects that may occur and how to avoid them.

Substance abuse of any kind is not good, but alcohol abuse has been especially devastating to society, families, and individuals because of the convenient availability, relative inexpensiveness, and its association with festivities. In addition, the abuse of alcohol leads to lack of inhibitions and unpredictable behaviors, which are many times violent and destructive. When people take disulfiram, they are acknowledging their problem, and they know that very unpleasant reactions will occur if alcohol is consumed, thus it helps to deter the first drink.

The history of disulfiram is still being written. Currently, it is being studied to treat certain cancers, parasitic infections, HIV, and Covid-19.

Stay informed and stay healthy.

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William Garst is a consultant pharmacist who resides in Alachua, Florida. He received his B.S. in Pharmacy from Auburn University in 1975. He earned a master’s degree in Public Health in 1988 from the University of South Florida and a Master’s in Pharmacy from UF in 2001. In 2007, he received his Doctor of Pharmacy from the University of Colorado. Dr. Garst is a member of many national, state, and local professional associations. He serves on the Alachua County Health Care Advisory Board and stays active as a relief pharmacist. In 2016, he retired from the VA. Dr. Garst enjoys golf, reading (especially history), and family. He writes a blog called The Pharmacy Newsletter (https://thepharmacynewsletter.com/). William Garst can be contacted at communitypharmac
ynewsletter@gmail.com.

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WASHINGTON — The Internal Revenue Service has announced it will reopen the registration period for federal beneficiaries who didn't receive $500 per child payments earlier this year.

The IRS urges certain federal benefit recipients to use the IRS.gov Non-Filers tool starting August 15 through September 30 to enter information on their qualifying children to receive the supplemental $500 payments.

Those eligible to provide this information include people with qualifying children who receive Social Security retirement, survivor or disability benefits, Supplemental Security Income (SSI), Railroad Retirement benefits and Veterans Affairs Compensation and Pension (C&P) benefits and did not file a tax return in 2018 or 2019.

The IRS anticipates the catch-up payments, equal to $500 per eligible child, will be issued by mid-October.

"IRS employees have been working non-stop to deliver more than 160 million Economic Impact Payments in record time. We have coordinated outreach efforts with thousands of community-based organizations and have provided materials in more than two dozen languages," said IRS Commissioner Chuck Rettig. "Given the extremely high demand for EIP assistance, we have continued to prioritize and increase resource allocations to eligible individuals, including those who may be waiting on some portion of their payment. To help with this, we are allocating additional IRS resources to ensure eligible recipients receive their full payments during this challenging time."

Used the Non-Filers tool after May 5? No action needed.

For those Social Security, SSI, Department of Veterans Affairs and Railroad Retirement Board beneficiaries who have already used the Non-Filers tool to provide information on children, no further action is needed. The IRS will automatically make a payment in October.

Didn't use the IRS Non-Filers tool yet? Provide information by September 30.

For those who received Social Security, SSI, RRB or VA benefits and have not used the Non-Filers tool to provide information on their child, they should register online by Sept. 30 using the Non-Filers: Enter Payment Info Here tool, available exclusively on IRS.gov. Remember, anyone who filed or plans to file either a 2018 or 2019 tax return should file the tax return and not use this tool.

For those unable to access the Non-Filers tool, they may submit a simplified paper return following the procedures described in this FAQ on IRS.gov.

Any beneficiary who misses the September 30 deadline will need to wait until next year and claim it as a credit on their 2020 federal income tax return.

Those who received their original Economic Impact Payment by direct deposit will also have any supplemental payment direct deposited to the same account. Others will receive a check.

Eligible recipients can check the status of their payments using the Get My Payment tool on IRS.gov. In addition, a notice verifying the $500-per-child supplemental payment will be sent to each recipient and should be retained with other tax records.

Other Non-Filers can still get a payment; must act by October 15.

Though most Americans have already received their Economic Impact Payments, the IRS reminds people with little or no income and who are not required to file tax returns that they remain eligible to receive an Economic Impact Payment.

People in this group should also use the Non-Filers' tool – but they need to act by October 15 to receive their payment this year.

Anyone who misses the October 15 deadline will need to wait until next year and claim it as a credit on their 2020 federal income tax return.

Available in both English and Spanish, the Non-Filers tool is designed for people with incomes typically below $24,400 for married couples, and $12,200 for singles. This includes couples and individuals who are experiencing homelessness. People can qualify, even if they don't work or have no earned income. But low- and moderate-income workers and working families eligible to receive special tax benefits, such as the Earned Income Tax Credit or Child Tax Credit, cannot use this tool. They will need to file a regular return by using IRS Free File or by another method.

Other important notices involving Economic Impact Payments:

Spouse's past-due child support. The IRS is actively working to resolve cases where a portion or all of an individual's payment was taken and applied to their spouse's past-due child support. People in this situation do not need to take any action. The IRS will automatically issue the portion of the EIP that was applied to the other spouse's debt.

Spouses of deceased taxpayers. Upon enactment of the CARES Act, the IRS initially implemented the legislation consistent with processes and procedures relating to the 2008 stimulus payments (which were transmitted to deceased individuals). After further review this spring, Treasury determined that those who died before receipt of the EIP should not receive the advance payment. As a result, the EIP procedures were modified to prevent future payments to deceased individuals. The cancellation of uncashed checks is part of this process. Some EIPs to spouses of deceased taxpayers were cancelled. The IRS is actively working on a systemic solution to reissue payments to surviving spouses of deceased taxpayers who were unable to deposit the initial EIPs paid to the deceased and surviving spouse. For EIPs that have been cancelled or returned, the surviving spouse will automatically receive their share of the EIP.

The IRS has taken steps to get payments to as many eligible individuals as possible. A recent oversight report confirmed that the IRS correctly computed the amount due for 98% of the payments issued. However, the IRS acknowledges the significance for those who have not yet received their full payment. The IRS continues to look at ways to help people get the right amount of the payment and will continue to provide updates on additional enhancements as they occur.

For more Information on the Economic Impact Payment, including updated answers to frequently-asked questions and other resources, visit IRS.gov/coronavirus. These online resources are helpful for people who might not understand (i) why the payment received is less than $1,200, (ii) that they are ineligible to receive a payment, or (iii) why they may not be eligible to receive the $500 per qualifying child payment.

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TALLAHASSEE ‒ The Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services (FDACS) has recently received several reports of suspected Asian giant hornets (AGH) sightings throughout Florida. FDACS’ Division of Plant Industry has confirmed that there is no evidence that so-called “murder hornets” are present anywhere in Florida.

"With reports of suspected Asian giant hornet sightings in Florida, our department and the USDA have confirmed that there is no evidence of this species in Florida," said Agriculture Commissioner Nikki Fried. "Our partners at the Washington State Department of Agriculture and the USDA are continuing to study and contain the Asian giant hornet to Washington state. We have every reason to believe that these ongoing efforts will keep this invasive pest far away from Florida’s residents and 650,000 honeybee colonies."

Reports of Asian giant hornets, frequently known in media as "murder hornets,” in Florida are often cases of misidentification, as they bear a close resemblance to native hornet and wasp species in Florida. Residents are encouraged to consult this FDACS Asian Giant Hornet Quick Guide, a to-scale comparison of the AGH and common Florida native species, as a reference to identify this invasive species accurately.

According to the USDA's Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS), AGHs  remain limited to a small part of Washington state. Currently, FDACS is providing technical and financial support to WSDA to help study and monitor the species, with the USDA's APHIS also closely monitoring the situation.

How to report a possible AGH sighting:

As a regulatory agency, FDACS' Division of Plant Industry works to detect, intercept, and control plant and honeybee pests that threaten Florida's native and commercial grown plants and agriculture resources. 

If you believe you have seen an Asian giant hornet, report it to the FDACS Division of Plant Industry by emailing DPIHelpline@FDACS.gov or calling 1-888-397-1517 and provide as much detail as you can about what you saw and where. If possible, include a photo if you can safely obtain one. 

Please visit the USDA APHIS' Asian Giant Hornet website for more information.

Background: Asian giant hornet (Vespa mandarinia) is the world's largest species of hornet. In December of 2019, the Washington State Department of Agriculture (WSDA) confirmed the detection of several individual Asian giant hornets. Later that fall, Canada also confirmed sightings of the species in two locations in British Columbia.

Asian giant hornets are known to feed on insects, sap, and soft fruits, but rarely attack people or pets unless they feel threatened. Their stinger is longer than that of a honeybee, and their venom is highly toxic. They can also sting repeatedly. They are known to attack and kill beehives in the late summer and early fall when developing males and future queens need protein. 

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TALLAHASSEE – The Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services (FDACS) is continuing to warn Floridians about unsolicited packages of seeds received through the mail. The seed packets, which may arrive unexpectedly in packages bearing Chinese characters, may bear the name China Post, and may be labeled as jewelry, have been reported in multiple states including Virginia, Kansas, Washington, Oklahoma, Louisiana, Utah, and others.

As of July 28, FDACS has received at least 631 reports from Florida residents reporting having received suspicious seed packages. The content of the seed packages remains unknown at this time, until testing by the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) takes place.

The USDA’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS), the lead regulatory body on this matter, issued guidance. The  USDA believes the seeds to be part of a “brushing” scam, where unsolicited items are sent in order to post false customer reviews and boost online sales. Upon receiving seed packages from recipients, the USDA will test the contents to determine if a risk is posed to agriculture or the environment.

 The introduction of plant seeds into the United States is tightly regulated by the USDA. Seeds of unknown origin may constitute agricultural smuggling, may be invasive, may introduce pathogens, toxins, or plant and animal diseases, may pose a risk of foodborne illness, and may pose a threat to plant and animal health. FDACS is continuing to work closely to receive additional guidance from the USDA and APHIS, in consultation with U.S. Customs and Border Protection.

“Plant seeds from unknown sources may introduce dangerous pathogens, diseases, or invasive species into Florida, putting agriculture and our state’s plant, animal, and human health at risk,” said Florida Agriculture Commissioner Nikki Fried. “Anyone receiving these suspicious seed packets should not plant them, but should report it to our department immediately, so that our inspectors can safely collect them for analysis.”

Anyone receiving unsolicited seed packages from other countries should follow these directions:

  • Do not open the seed packet and avoid opening outer packaging or mailing materials, if possible
  • Place the seed packet AND mailing materials into a sealable plastic bag – this is important to determining the origin of the seeds
  • Do not plant the seeds or discard them in trash that will be landfilled
  • Report the seed package to the FDACS Division of Plant Industry at 1-888-397-1517 or DPIhelpline@FDACS.gov
  • After reporting the seed package, an Inspector from the FDACS Division of Plant Industry will contact seed recipients to schedule a safe, contactless collection of the seeds, packaging, and mailing materials

 When reporting the seed package to FDACS and USDA/APHIS, please be prepared to provide one’s name, physical address, phone number, and email address for contact and seed collection purposes.

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TALLAHASSEE ‒ The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) and the South Florida Water Management District, working together under the direction of Gov. Ron DeSantis, removed 5,000 invasive Burmese pythons from South Florida’s Everglades ecosystem.

“We’ve learned through the Python Challenge that experience counts when finding and removing Burmese pythons,” said FWC Commissioner Rodney Barreto. “We can’t win the battle alone. It’s one team, one mission. We need the support of these experienced python hunters as well as the partnership with the South Florida Water Management District and the ongoing support of Gov. Ron DeSantis.”

“Another win for the Everglades. This is what agencies like the South Florida Water Management District and the FWC, focused and working together, can accomplish,” said SFWMD Governing Board Member “Alligator Ron” Bergeron. “Every snake counts. Each invasive python eliminated represents hundreds of native Florida wildlife saved. With Gov. DeSantis’ continued leadership, Florida is doing more than it ever has to remove pythons from the Everglades and protect this ecosystem for generations to come.”

The public can help control nonnative invasive wildlife by reporting sightings to the FWC’s Exotic Species Hotline at 888-IveGot1 (888-483-4681), online at IveGot1.org or by using the free smartphone app IVEGOT1. If possible, take a picture and note the exact location of the sighting. Python Action Team and Python Elimination Program members respond to reports of large constrictors and other priority species to remove these harmful invaders from the wild.

Burmese pythons became established in Florida as a result of escaped or released pets. It is illegal to release nonnative species into the wild and can negatively impact Florida’s native wildlife and habitat. Don’t let it loose! The FWC’s Exotic Pet Amnesty Program allows pet owners to surrender nonnative or exotic pets without penalty. Visit MyFWC.com/PetAmnesty for more information.

To learn more about the FWC’s Python Action Team and the SFWMD’s Python Elimination Program, visit MyFWC.com/Python and SFWMD.gov/Python.

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