Celebrating 100 Years: Extension’s Role In The Community

September 1, 2014

For 100 years, the University of Florida’s Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences (UF/IFAS) Extension program has been enhancing and sustaining the quality of life by making university research accessible to the public.

UF/IFAS Extension is a federal-state-county partnership dedicated to developing knowledge in agriculture, human and natural resources, and the life sciences. UF/IFAS has a reputation for excellence in teaching and research on the university campus, which is extended into every community in the state through county extension offices.  The local branch of UF/IFAS is typically referred to as “extension,” with “extension agents” tasked with carrying out educational programs.

Since inception, the Escambia County extension agents have translated research from the UF campus into useful instruction for members of the community, taking a highly engaging approach to learning. For example, natural resource agents lead clientele in kayaking trips over seagrass beds to teach them about coastal ecology, while the agriculture agent hosts a biannual farm tour for elected officials. Horticulture agents teach physically and intellectually challenged youth to grow vegetables in a wheelchair accessible garden, while 4-H youth learn legislative procedure at mock sessions in the state capital.

Customer service surveys performed in 2012 indicated 96% of residents who used Escambia County Extension were satisfied with their experience, and 90% of walk-in clientele said the information they received answered their questions or solved their problem.

Annually, Escambia County Extension agents train over 700 volunteers to further the reach of our educational efforts, with a total contribution (in 2012) of 54,035 hours valued at $983,437. Individuals in classes and workshops return to Extension time after time, due to the agents’ ability to utilize relationships with UF and local community members to provide targeted, science-based information through creative teaching methods.

ll of these efforts promote the advancement of agriculture, natural resources and sustainable economic development in Escambia County. Program area advisory committees, comprised of local citizens, assure that programs meet community needs.

Pictured top: Escambia County Extension Agent Carrie Stevenson and 4-H caretaker Ellis Miller blow out the candles on a 100th birthday cake for Escambia Extension.  NorthEscambia.com file photos, click to enlarge.

GED Classes Offered Beginning This Week In Molino

September 1, 2014

GED classes will resume Thursday from 6-8 p.m. at the Molino Community Center. Classes will be on Monday and Thursday evenings in Room 124.

New students can take the TABE (Test of Adult Basic Education) on for free on Tuesday at 5:30 p.m. at the Molino Community Center for students age 18 and over. A photo identification is required for the test. Students under 18 need to get a special waiver obtainable only at the George Stone Technical Center (call 941-6200).

Students may also register online by clicking here.

For more information, call George Stone at (850) 941-6200.

Scott To Pitch New Round Of Tax Cuts As Tag Fees Drop

September 1, 2014

A rollback in vehicle-registration fees, the key part of a $500 million package of tax and fee cuts approved this spring, kicks in Monday as Gov. Rick Scott starts to campaign for a new round of tax cuts.

The election-year reduction in vehicle-registration fees (SB 156), one of two new laws going into effect Monday, is expected to save motorists $17 to $25 a year depending on the size of the vehicles.

The other new law (SB 242) is intended to keep people from stealing the identities of children. The Keeping I.D. Safe (KIDS) Act, backed by Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam, would allow parents or guardians to open a file in their child’s name with a major consumer credit bureau and then immediately put a freeze on the account.

However, the reduction in vehicle-registration fees will be the law highlighted over the next two weeks as Scott goes out on his latest campaign tour, this time hop-scotching the state with a pledge to cut $1 billion in taxes over the next two years.

At each stop, Scott will maintain support for a number of sales-tax shopping holidays, along with touting plans to cut the communications-services tax imposed on cable and phone services, eliminate a manufacturing sales tax, phase out both the corporate income tax and a sales tax on commercial leases and enact a constitutional amendment that would prevent residential property taxes from being increased when home values don’t go up.

Little information was immediately available Friday about how each cut could impact the state budget or local government revenues. The planned tax-cut tour follows similar campaign runs in which Scott has pledged to maintain or increase funding for transportation, the environment and schools.

During the tour, scheduled to touch down in 28 cities, Scott will also play up that the vehicle-registration fees were raised as part of a 2009 law signed by Democratic gubernatorial challenger Charlie Crist, then the Republican governor.

Crist’s campaign sent out a release seeking to re-label Scott’s campaign stops as the “empty promises tax tour.”

Scott considered the vehicle-registration fee reduction one of his “critical” priorities during the spring legislative session.

The cut to vehicle-registration fees is expected to trim state revenue by $309.1 million during the current 2014-15 fiscal year and $394.6 million in later years, when the cuts will be in effect for a full 12 months.

The vehicle fee change was included as part of the wide-ranging, $500 million “patchwork of awesomeness” tax package, so named by one of its chief architects, House Finance & Tax Chairman Ritch Workman, R-Melbourne. Among the items in the package were sales-tax holidays, a reduction in the insurance premium tax on bail-bond premiums, and the permanent elimination of sales taxes on college meal plans, therapeutic pet foods, child car seats and bicycle helmets for kids.

The Sept. 1 effective date for the vehicle registration-fee rollback was set to ensure the change could be implemented smoothly, said Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles spokesman John Lucas.

“With the amount of work that’s required to reduce fees and enter it into our system for more than 14 million vehicles that are affected by this fee reduction, it took some time,” Lucas said. “So, we thought September 1 would be a good target date to start from.”

Scott has made cutting taxes and fees a major focus of his administration and his re-election campaign.

The Republican first pledged to eliminate the state’s corporate income tax when he ran in 2010, along with calling for a $1.4 billion property-tax cut as part of a sweeping economic plan he said would not reduce school funding.

Efforts to cut taxes on commercial leases and the communications-services tax have stalled in the Legislature in recent years.

And Scott in 2013 requested a permanent tax cut for manufacturing machinery. Instead he had to wait until the final week of the legislative session before getting lawmakers to include a three-year temporary cut as part of a larger economic-incentives package.

During the campaign, he has repeatedly hammered Crist on tax issues. Increasing vehicle-registration fees was among a number of tax and fee measures that the Republican-dominated Legislature approved in 2009 as the state grappled with a budget shortfall that stemmed from the economic recession.

Other increases in 2009 included a hike in late-payment fees on driver’s license renewals, from $1 to $15. Also, the cost of an original driver’s license went from $27 to $48, first-time registrations of cars went from $100 to $225, and cigarette taxes were increased by $1 a pack.

As part of the upcoming tour, Scott will call for “eliminating more of Charlie Crist’s tax and fee increases,” including the hike on first-time car registrations, according to information released Friday by his campaign.

by Jim Turner, The News Service of Florida

Wahoos Win Close Contest 2-1 Over Birmingham Barons

September 1, 2014

The Pensacola Blue Wahoos (28-41, 59-80) defeated the Birmingham Barons (31-38, 60-79) 2-1 on Sunday afternoon at Regions Field. The Blue Wahoos pitched spectacularly well, allowing just one run and striking out 12 batters in total.

The story of the game was RHP Robert Stephenson’s stellar outing for the Blue Wahoos. Stephenson pitched 7.0 innings of one-run ball against Birmingham, notching his seventh win of the season. The righty struck out nine batters in the contest, two off his season-high of 11. Stephenson struck out five batters swinging and four were caught looking. He retired the 11 of the final 12 batters he faced from the fourth through the seventh inning. Stephenson’s 140 strikeouts lead the Southern League and are a Blue Wahoos team record.

The Barons got a run off of Stephenson in the bottom of the first to take a quick 1-0 lead. Rangel Ravelo scored Tim Anderson on a sacrifice fly to deep center field, but the Barons would strand a runner on third base to end the inning.

The Wahoos took the lead from the Barons in the top of the fourth inning. Kyle Waldrop launched his eighth home run of the year to the right field bleachers to tie the contest at one. In the following at-bat, Travis Mattair hit a ground rule double into the Wahoos bullpen. Mattair moved over on a ground out and scored on a wild pitch with two outs in the inning.

The Wahoos took that same 2-1 lead into the bottom of the ninth inning and the Barons first two batters of the inning reached base against RHP Shane Dyer. Joey DeMichele put down a sacrifice bunt to move both runners into scoring position with just one out in the inning. Chris Curley came off the bench to pinch-hit and laced the first pitch he saw right at Seth Mejias-Brean who snagged the ball out of the air for out number two. Dyer coaxed a ground ball down the third base line and Mejias-Brean fired a bullet to Mattair at first base to end the game. It was Dyer’s franchise leading 21st save of the season, which is also good for second in the Southern League.

RHP Terance Marin pitched incredibly well for the Barons in his second Double-A start of the season, but still took the loss. Marin struck out nine batters over 7.2 innings and he allowed two runs on eight hits.

The Blue Wahoos final game of the season begins at 12:30 p.m. at Regions. RHP Michael Lorenzen (4-6, 3.13) will make his final start of the season for the Wahoos. RHP Myles Jaye (4-12, 5.54) is scheduled to start for the Barons.

by Tommy Thrall

Semper Fi Charity Run Is Saturday

September 1, 2014

The Marine Corps Aviation Association announced the date for the 31st annual Semper Fi Charity Run/Walk. The Semper Fi run will be held on Naval Air Station Pensacola. The Race will start near Radford Gymnasium and feature a scenic route throughout the Naval Base. The race is a USATF sanctioned event. Post race events including food, drink, and music, will be held on base at the finish line.

The Semper Fi Charity Run race participants may register online or with a mail-in form. Both forms are available at www.semperficharityrun.org/registration.html. Registration rates are $30 per runner until September 6th. Prices go up to $35 on race day.

The Semper Fi Charity Run began in 1983 with the goal of helping the families of the 241 American service members killed in the bombing attack on the Marine barracks in Beirut. Today, the purpose of the race is to give back to the Pensacola community. All proceeds will benefit the local outreach programs: New Horizons of Northwest Florida, Escambia Westgate School, The Miracle League of Pensacola, Gulf Coast Kids House, and the Boys and Girls Club of the Emerald Coast.

In 2013, Marine Corps Aviation Association was able to raise over $35,000 for the local charities.

Flood Survivors: Group To Access Needs At Cantonment Interviews

August 31, 2014

Volunteer interviewers will meet with flood survivors to help individuals connect with resources and gain a clear picture of what it will take to recover.

BRACE and the Escambia County Long-Term Recovery Group have requested the services of a national disaster recovery group to determine who in the community will not be able to rebuild and recover without assistance.

A team of World Renew volunteers will conduct one-on-one interviews with flood survivors at Allen Memorial United Methodist Church at 200 Pace Parkway in Cantonment from 11 a.m. until 7 p.m on Wednesday, September 3; Friday, September 5; Monday, September 8; Wednesday, September 10; and Friday, September 12. An appointment is not necessary.

The process will help to prioritize individual and family needs and connect survivors with organizations offering long-term support.  Several voluntary organizations have committed to sending volunteer reconstruction teams to the community to assist survivors in their recovery once the needs can be defined and prioritized.  Those volunteer organizations will be assisting survivors with unmet disaster caused needs with reconstruction.

Interview questions are straightforward and should not require residents to supply any paperwork, although if flood survivors do have a FEMA number, they are asked to bring that with them to the center.

For more information contact the Escambia County Long-Term Recovery Group, at (850) 292-8024 or email brace@bereadyalliance.org.

Cotton Transition Assistance Program Enrollment Underway

August 31, 2014

Farmers can enroll in the Cotton Transition Assistance Program (CTAP) beginning  through October 7.

The program, created by the 2014 Farm Bill, provides interim payments to cotton producers during the 2014 crop year until the Stacked Income Protection Plan, a new insurance product also created by the legislation, is available. Details on the plan will be released by mid-August.

CTAP applications approved before Oct. 1, are subject to Congressionally mandated automatic reductions of 7.2 percent for the 2014 crop year. Applications approved after October 1 will be reduced the required 7.3 percent for the 2015 crop year. The Budget Control Act of 2011 requires USDA to implement these reductions to program payments.

For more information about CTAP, visit a local FSA office or go online to www.fsa.usda.gov.

NorthEscambia.com file photo.

Sunny Days: Growing Sunflowers

August 31, 2014

by the Santa Rosa Extension Service

Sunflowers not only make the garden beautiful but can also be used to bring the beauty of outdoors inside.

It may be towards the end of summer, but you can still plant sunflowers and enjoy them during the fall. In north Florida, try to complete sunflower planting by the third week in August. Depending on the variety, sunflowers will bloom about 55 to 75 days after planting – 60 days is a good average. Some sunflowers are sensitive to day length and may yield shorter plants and earlier bloom when planted in late summer. This corresponds to the reduction in daylight hours as summer progresses toward autumn.

To begin, choose cultivars that fit your landscape. There are now more sunflowers than just the seed bearing giants that many gardeners are familiar with. Just take a look at the gardening catalogs.

Sunflowers can be broadly divided into two types: those grown for production of edible seeds and those grown as ornamentals and cut flowers. Most gardeners will be interested in the ornamental sunflowers, also known as Helianthus annuus.

Sunflowers come in heights ranging from less than one foot to ten feet and also come in a wide range of flower colors. While brilliant yellow will always be popular, you can also choose from creamy white, bronze, mahogany, rusty red, burgundy and orange. Some types produce flowers with more than one color. The center disk of the sunflower also adds to the display and goes through color changes as the flower matures and seeds form.

Sunbright, Sunrich Lemon, Sunrich Orange, Soraya and Moulin Rouge are some that are recommended for Florida.

For best bouquet results, choose cultivars that are pollen-less to prevent pollen from shedding onto a tablecloth or other flowers in an arrangement.

If you want to grow sunflowers for the delicious, nutritious seeds, make sure you choose varieties bred for seed production, such as Mammoth Russian – also known as Mammoth, Russian Giant and Gray Stripe. These tall-growing sunflowers produce a single enormous flower at the top of the plant. To grow a really big seed head, apply general-purpose fertilizer when the flower head begins to appear. Just be sure to place them so that you can stake them if necessary.

Sunflowers are true to their name, they need to be grown in full sun. Prepare a sunflower bed as you would for planting most vegetables. They tolerate heat and dry conditions and almost any soil type. The pH preference is 6.5 to 7.5 and the addition of composted organic matter is beneficial.

Plant seeds about one-quarter inch deep directly into a prepared garden bed. It’s common to plant sunflowers into landscape beds, and many gardeners include a row of sunflowers in spring and fall vegetable gardens. After sowing the seeds, water the bed well and thesun water it as needed to keep the soil moist – even lightly every day if the weather is dry.

Sunflowers should be harvested in early morning before 10:00 a.m. It is best to cut the stems and place them in warm water right away for best results.

The versatility and variety of today’s sunflowers offer something for almost every garden and gardener. If you haven’t tried this plant lately, give it another look.

Theresa Friday is the Residential Horticulture Extension Agent for Santa Rosa County.

Pack A Better School Lunch

August 31, 2014

by Dorothy Lee, Escambia County Extension

It’s that time of year again.  With kids off to school they are  again faced with the important question: What’s for lunch? With childhood obesity on the rise, having a nutritious lunch is an important part of an overall healthful diet. Since most kids  consume one-third of their daily total calories at lunch, here are  some tips on helping them eat more super-nutritious foods:

  • Plan ahead. It helps to have all the right ingredients on hand for making the best lunch. You might even consider coming up with a weekly menu. Involve the kids in planning whenever possible.
  • Avoid last-minute rushing by preparing all or part of lunch the night before.
  • Use cookie cutters to make fun shapes with sandwiches, etc.
  • Make sure you always include at least one fresh fruit or vegetable – both is even better.
  • Hide special notes or cards in the lunch box.
  • Best beverage bets include skim milk, water or 100% fruit juice.
  • Try to use more low-fat snack and cookie items – see the list below for ideas.
  • Remember food safety. It is better if you keep foods chilled in insulated lunch boxes with either  an ice pack or frozen juice box.

And consider options when choosing ingredients for lunches:

Dorothy C. Lee, CFCS, is an Extension Agent, Family & Consumer Sciences with the Escambia County Extension Service.

Florida Gov’t Weekly Roundup: The Inevitable Battle Begins

August 31, 2014

With the unofficial beginning of campaign season just around the corner, Florida voters headed to the polls this week to choose their nominees for governor and seats in the Legislature.

Or, at least, to finish the predetermined coronations in many of those races. There never seemed to be any real danger that either of the leading gubernatorial candidates would lose their primaries. And virtually every incumbent on the ballot Tuesday was still standing on Wednesday.

http://www.northescambia.com/wp-content/uploads/2011/01/floridaweeklly.jpgBut the election wasn’t the only battle that moved into a new phase. As candidates began to turn their attention to the broader electorate, opponents of the state’s de facto school-voucher program were going from the court of public opinion to the actual courts. Almost four months after the Legislature followed through on a promise to expand eligibility for the voucher program, groups opposed to the move filed a lawsuit that could lead to the entire system being overturned.

NOW FOR THE MAIN EVENT

For the most part, there were few surprises in the primaries Tuesday night. Republican Gov. Rick Scott and former Republican Gov. Charlie Crist, now a Democrat, cruised through primaries against lesser-known candidates.

Crist easily defeated former Senate Minority Leader Nan Rich and was officially welcomed by his new party as its nominee. Democratic National Committee Chairwoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz, a congresswoman from Broward County, praised Crist and running-mate Annette Taddeo as working-class champions.

“Charlie and Annette have embraced policies that will help Florida’s middle-class families, a stark contrast to the current governor, Republican Rick Scott, who is beholden to special interests and radical tea party ideology,” she said in a statement.

Scott handily defeated two obscure GOP opponents, Yinka Abosede Adeshina and Elizabeth Cuevas-Neunder. But the Scott team’s primary focus has long been on Crist.

“The next few months are about talk versus action,” Scott said. “That means Florida will have a choice between a governor who sent our state into a tailspin and a governor who gets results.”

In a marginally competitive statewide race, former Department of Children and Families Secretary George Sheldon beat House Minority Leader Perry Thurston in the Democratic primary for attorney general.

“I believe the attorney general is the people’s lawyer, not the governor’s lawyer, and not the Legislature’s lawyer,” Sheldon told supporters during a victory party at the Wine Loft Wine Bar in Tallahassee. “Help me give Pam Bondi the job she really wants, as an anchor on FOX News.”

Bondi wasted little time in both congratulating Sheldon and challenging him to a debate.

“The voters will have a clear choice between candidates in this election, and they deserve to hear directly from us on the distinct difference in visions and leadership that each candidate will offer to the attorney general’s Office,” Bondi said in a prepared statement.

Races in the House provided the sole state-level incumbent to go down and the usual bit of Florida elections drama.

In Central Florida, Rep. Ricardo Rangel, D-Kissimmee, was defeated in his bid for a second term by John Cortes, vice chairman of the Democratic Hispanic Caucus of Florida. State Democratic Party Chairwoman Allison Tant seemed just fine with Cortes beating the incumbent.

“From his time as a police officer to his extensive work as an activist in Osceola County, John has always put his fellow community members ahead of himself,” Tant said in a statement. “I look forward to working with John to ensure that the residents of District 43 continue to have representation that puts the middle class first this fall.”

Meanwhile, the costly and bitterly fought Republican primary in Duval County’s House District 15 turned into a nail-biter between Jay Fant, a tea party-style candidate, and Paul Renner, who had much of the local establishment behind him. Fant, who loaned his campaign $375,000, ended up with a two-vote margin of victory after a manual recount and is now almost certain to replace Rep. Daniel Davis, R-Jacksonville.

SCHOOLING THE ELECTORATE

Scott didn’t wait until he had officially dispatched his challengers to start rolling out what will clearly be one of the central themes of his campaign. He unveiled an education agenda Monday that included promises to review the number of tests being administered to Florida students and to take further steps to rein in the cost of college if he wins a second term in November.

“We want to make sure that our students have every opportunity to succeed in the classroom and in their careers, and we want to make sure our teachers have every tool they need to make that possible,” Scott said.

The call for an investigation of standardized testing is noteworthy, given that Republicans interested in education reform have long looked at assessments as a way to judge how well schools are educating children. In 2011, Scott signed a bill that more closely tied teacher pay to student performance on standardized tests

A brochure outlining Scott’s proposals seemed to place the blame for the amount of testing on local school districts.

But Kathleen Oropeza, co-founder of the advocacy group Fund Education Now, said blaming local school districts was disingenuous, because many of the tests they require are tied to state laws. Districts will have to create tests for some courses under the teacher-pay law that Scott signed, Oropeza said.

On higher education, Scott said he would push for a requirement that colleges outline the costs of textbooks and other materials before students register for classes.

In his official capacity, the governor joined Education Commissioner Pam Stewart on a jaunt across the state to welcome students back to school. Crist’s campaign cried foul on that.

“Floridians should not be fooled by Rick Scott’s shameful, taxpayer-funded campaign events this week,” spokesman Brendan Gilfillan said in a statement. “Scott’s back-to-school tour should be an apology tour for the $4.8 billion he wanted to cut and the $1.3 billion he did cut from education.”

WE’RE NOT GONNA TAKE IT

“That’s all I can stands; I can’t stands no more,” the cartoon character Popeye used to say — and a coalition of groups including the state’s largest teachers union essentially said the same thing this week in launching a legal assault on Florida’s de facto school-voucher program.

The lawsuit comes after the Legislature approved a bill this spring that would expand eligibility for the program and increase the value of scholarships given to participating students. While one of the central claims of the lawsuit — that the program gets in the way of the state’s responsibility to provide a quality education to all children — could have been made for years now, those filing the challenge said the expansion forced their hand.

Ron Meyer, an attorney for the groups, said while education advocates were willing to allow the program to go forward initially, “this has become an industry.”

“It’s a money-maker for scholarship-funding organizations,” Meyer said. “And it’s a program that we think is a dereliction of the constitutional requirement (to provide public education).”

The Tax Credit Scholarship Program, which could raise as much as $357.8 million this year, provides tax credits to companies that donate money to nonprofit entities that pay for children to go to private schools.

Without the scholarship program, critics say, those tax dollars could be used to help fund public education. But supporters say the program provides better opportunities for low- or middle-income children trapped in failing public schools.

Republicans, who led the charge to institute and then broaden the voucher program, saw things a bit differently. Those attacking the scholarships were actually the special interests.

“This lawsuit is just the latest attack on parental choice by an entrenched education establishment more concerned about protecting the status quo than providing families the opportunities afforded by a great education,” said former Gov. Jeb Bush, who signed the legislation creating the program and is still an influential figure in the state’s education debates.

STORY OF THE WEEK: Primary elections cleared the way for general elections, including the long-awaited battle between Gov. Rick Scott and former Gov. Charlie Crist for control of the Governor’s Mansion.

QUOTE OF THE WEEK: “We’re not the Rick Scott campaign. We can’t go whenever and whatever we want on TV. We have to make choices. So why would we make the choice to go spend a bunch of money in a primary that we know we’re going to win?”—Steve Schale, a consultant for the Crist campaign, on why the former governor essentially ignored primary opponent Nan Rich.

by Brandon Larrabee, The News Service of Florida

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