During his nearly 30 years with the Florida Fruit and Vegetable Association, Dan Botts has been a tireless advocate for Florida agriculture. He is an expert on pesticide use and regulation and lobbies on behalf of growers for reasonable pesticide rules that balance environmental concerns with the needs of production. Thanks to his efforts, Florida growers are able to safeguard farm workers, consumers, and the state’s natural resources while continuing to produce abundant and affordable crops.
Botts was born in 1951 in Troy, Alabama. As a boy he enjoyed spending time in the woods and discovered his passion for natural science early on. He attended Auburn University, where he earned a bachelor’s degree in biology in 1974 and a master’s degree in zoology in 1978.
Botts moved to Florida in 1979 and was hired by South Bay Growers, a vegetable-farming subsidiary of U.S. Sugar Corp. He became South Bay’s technical director in 1981.
In 1985 he joined the Florida Fruit and Vegetable Association (FFVA) as director of its Environmental and Pest Management Division. He was later named vice president of Industry Resources. Botts oversees FFVA’s pest management, water and natural resources, food safety, and sustainability activities. Working closely with federal and state regulatory agencies, he gives voice to the needs and concerns of Florida growers.
When Florida crops come under severe pest pressure and registered pesticides are inadequate to control the outbreaks, Botts has been instrumental in obtaining emergency exemptions for the use of alternative products. Under his leadership, FFVA has assisted the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services in obtaining EPA approval for scores of emergency exemptions. Over the years these successful petitions have prevented hundreds of millions of dollars in crop losses for Florida growers.
One of Botts’s greatest contributions has been his ongoing effort to help Florida growers cope with the phaseout of methyl bromide, the soil fumigant that is the foundation of pest management for Florida’s strawberry, tomato, pepper, eggplant, squash, cucumber, and watermelon growers. When the phaseout was announced, Botts went into action, coordinating research efforts to identify new pest control approaches. As growers wait for these new methods to be developed, Botts has helped them obtain critical use exemptions that allow them continued access to methyl bromide.
As Mary Hartney, president of the Florida Fertilizer and Agrichemical Association, says, “Florida growers can thank Dan Botts for making growing fresh fruits and vegetables possible and profitable in Florida.”
In 1994 Botts founded Third Party Registrations, Inc., a not-for-profit subsidiary of FFVA. Third Party Registrations aids Florida specialty crop growers in securing specific registrations for crop-protection chemicals that would not otherwise be available to them.
Botts is well known for organizing the Spring Regulatory Tour, an annual event intended to encourage better understanding between regulators and growers. This weeklong tour of South Florida farms gives federal and state regulators a technical view of production practices and the opportunity to discuss pesticide use and regulation with growers. In short, it offers a firsthand look at how rules written in a faraway office are actually applied in the field. In its 25-year history, the tour has reached hundreds of regulators, providing information to help them make more informed decisions.
Botts holds leadership roles in a number of industry coalitions, including the Crop Protection Coalition, the Minor Crop Farmer Alliance, and the Pesticide Policy Coalition. He also serves on a variety of government committees, including the EPA’s Pesticide Program Dialogue Committee and the USDA’s Specialty Crop Advisory Committee.
Dan Botts lives in Maitland with his wife, Susan. They have two grown sons, Josh and Michael.