Pointing to concerns that it could provide housing for illegal foreign workers, Gov. Ron DeSantis on Friday vetoed an agriculture industry-backed bill that would have made it easier to build housing for farmworkers. In a veto letter, DeSantis said the bill (SB 1082) lacked enforcement related to illegal workers.

“The bill’s terms apply to legal migrant farm workers, but the bill does not include the means to enforce this limitation and could pave the way for housing of illegal alien workers,” DeSantis wrote.

The bill would have prevented local governments from inhibiting construction of farmworker housing on agricultural land if the housing met criteria set by the state.

Members of the agriculture industry hoped the measure would bolster efforts to bring in more non-immigrant foreign workers. They said some farmers cut back on planting this year and might again next year because of labor shortages related to the state’s crackdown on undocumented immigrants.

The House and Senate unanimously passed the bill, with industry officials saying the housing would meet federal requirements for temporary foreign workers through the federal H-2A visa program. During a Senate Agriculture Committee meeting in January, Florida Fruit & Vegetable Association Chairman David Hill said the proposal was designed so farmers would not be “at the whim” of different counties and municipalities.

“We can grow our crop, but without harvesting it we might as well not grow the crop,” said Hill, an owner of Southern Hill Farms in Clermont. “No one is going to pick the crops that we grow except for the people we’re trying to bring over, in H-2A in particular.”

The bill would have imposed restrictions, such as the housing could not have been within 250 feet of property lines adjacent to residential property. Also, any structure within 500 feet of neighboring residential properties would have needed to have trees, walls, berms or fences to provide “screening.”

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