Talkin' Trash About Florida Oranges, Tomatoes, Seafood, Meat, or .... Marijuana? Not So Fast.

Under Florida law, producers of perishable agricultural or aquacultural food products (or any association representing such producers) are provided with a statutory cause of action to recover damages against "another person" who disparages such products.  The statute of limitations for "disparagement" of "perishable agricultural food products" is 2 years from the date the disparagement occurs.

The relevant Florida statute - Section 865.065 - authorizing a civil cause of action provides:

“Disparagement” means the willful or malicious dissemination to the public in any manner of any false information that a perishable agricultural food product is not safe for human consumption. False information is that information which is not based on reliable, scientific facts and reliable, scientific data which the disseminator knows or should have known to be false.

“Perishable agricultural food product” means any agricultural or aquacultural food product or commodity grown or produced within the State of Florida which is sold or distributed in a form that will perish or decay within a reasonable period of time.

Countless products fall within the definition of "perishable agricultural food products," including, but not limited to, Florida fruits, vegetables, seafood, meat, poultry, and yes, even marijuana.  The most recent data from the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services shows that, as of 2015, Florida had over 47,300 commercial farms and ranches; ranked second in the U.S. for value of vegetable production; first in production value for oranges, fresh market tomatoes, watermelons, grapefruit, sugarcane, fresh market snap beans and fresh market cucumbers; second in the production of greenhouse and nursery products, bell peppers, strawberries, fresh market sweet corn, spring potatoes, peanuts, tangerines and avocados; 10th in beef cows; and accounted for 56 percent of total U.S. citrus production. Florida also ranked seventh in the U.S. for agricultural exports, with over $4 billion of agriculture commodities shipped in 2015.

If you are a Florida producer of perishable agricultural or aquacultural food products and have suffered damages (such as lost income or profits) as a result of false information disseminated to the public about your products, you have rights and remedies available to you.   A lawsuit against competitors, newspapers, television networks, etc. who engage in "disparagement" may protect your products and provide relief.   Please contact Joel Ewusiak for legal assistance with your particular matter.