GIVE

A New Era for FLorida's Support for State Aid to Florida Mosquito Control

Like the mythical phoenix after being consumed in flames, and arising from the ashes, Florida's state aid for mosquito control has arisen in 2013 from the ashes of 2012. In 2013 Florida's legislators, with concurrence by Gov. Rick Scott, recognized the importance of mosquito and mosquito-borne disease control in Florida by providing $2.66 million for mosquito control support. This included $1.66 million for state aid to Florida's mosquito control districts, $500,000 for Florida's mosquito and mosquito-borne disease competitive research program, and $500,000 for The University of Florida/IFAS to establish 3 new full-time positions to conduct research on mosquito and mosquito-borne disease control issues at the Florida Medical Entomology Laboratory (FMEL).

Over the past several years, it has been disheartening to witness Florida eroding Florida's state support for mosquito control. During this period Florida saw a decline of ~50% of the state funds for mosquito control, and the closing of the Public Health Entomology Research and Education Center in Panama City, resulting in the loss of nearly a third of Florida's scientists focused on mosquito control related sciences, and the loss of 20% of the scientists at the FMEL as well.

wtPhoenix Like the mythical phoenix, Florida state aid for mosquito control arises from the ashes.

The Florida Mosquito Control Association forcefully argued that such drastic reductions would have disastrous consequences for Florida's future. In 2012 Florida cut funding for the then $250,000 that supported the annual competitive Florida mosquito research program, eliminating this critical program entirely. As a result, 2012 was the first time in the past 30 years that no Floridasupported research was conducted for improving Florida's mosquito and mosquito-borne disease control.

Why did Florida re-establish state support for mosquito control in 2013? Cynics might believe the primary reason was due to Florida's not having a revenue shortage that had been the norm during the past several years. This is true, of course, but there were ample other projects throughout the state that did not receive support for a variety of reasons. I believe that the primary difference was that Florida's legislators realized the consequences that Florida would suffer for not providing this support for mosquito control. This became evident when Florida Senator Alan Hays, Chair of the Florida Senate's Subcommittee on Appropriations, visited FMEL on Dec. 15, 2011. He learned firsthand about the importance of mosquito control in Florida, the challenges ahead, and the disastrous consequences of the continued eroding of state aid in support of district and county programs and for research. Senator Hays envisioned correcting the situation and began to work in Tallahassee to establish state aid to mosquito control. Florida owes great appreciation to Senator Hays for his vision and work to protect Florida's health and well-being.

In 2012, a proposal to add $1 million from Florida's state budget to support mosquito control research was unfortunately vetoed by Gov. Rick Scott. Thankfully, state aid to the district and county programs that had been eliminated by the agencies earlier in the budget cycle had been restored as part of the addition, but not vetoed. However, as a result even the historic $250,000 provided annually to support research was eliminated. The reasons for the Governor's veto in 2012 for this program were varied. Largely, the request lacked information on the return on investment to Florida's taxpayers for state dollars spent for mosquito control programs and for mosquito-borne disease control. This was corrected in 2013 when I clearly illustrated the return on investment from dollars provided for mosquito research. I provided information from a survey of several of Florida's mosquito control districts showing that every dollar spent by Florida on mosquito and mosquito-borne disease control research returns ~$200-280 annually in savings to Florida's taxpayers while delivering effective, efficient and environmentally proper mosquito control (Tabachnick, WJ. 2013. Florida mosquito research has returned huge dividends to Florida.BuzzWords, Newsletter of the Florida Mosquito Control Assoc. 13(2): 2-5).

The current state aid appropriation is a victory for all of Florida's citizens because it provides opportunities to decrease the costs and the risks from pest mosquitoes and mosquitoborne diseases. With this support comes great responsibilities. It is vital that these funds prove their importance to Florida. It is essential these resources demonstrate that professional mosquito control and mosquito control scientists will make inroads in improving our capabilities to protect Florida.

Every district receiving state aid must show the importance of the state funds that they receive, how they are used and the consequences to the district and to Florida if these funds are eliminated. It is absolutely vital that the competitive mosquito research program deliver essential information, first by ensuring that projects are on the priority needs developed by Florida's Coordinating Council on Mosquito Control and FMCA's Research Advisory Committee. Second, it is vital that the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services (FDACS) and its constituted research selection committee demands credible, excellent science that provides usable and peer reviewed information. The resources provided to expand mosquito- and mosquito-borne disease control expertise at FMEL must be used prudently to expand Florida's capabilities for improving new technologies, for new products, and for addressing environmental concerns about mosquito control operations. It will be critical to bring needed expertise to FMEL of new faculty and use the funds to support their efforts. This program must recruit faculty who are leaders in their disciplines and who are capable of developing sustainable, credible and nationally competitive research programs that will bring essential extramural research dollars to Florida. That is the challenge.

wjt3Walter J. Tabachnick, Ph.D.
Florida Medical Entomology Laboratory
Professor, Department of Entomology and Nematology
University of Florida
Vero Beach, FL