The University of Florida said Thursday that a state-of-the-art laboratory in Fort Pierce is "likely" to close, and its 12 positions eliminated, because of Gov. Rick Scott's line-item veto. Scott's reason for eliminating the money for the project was that "a clear state return on investment has not been demonstrated at this time."
The joint projecst by UF and IFAS, the Institute for Food and Agricultural Sciences, controls invasive plants and insects. The university said that the lab's future is in question because Scott vetoed its funding, including a $180,000 increase that the Legislature appropriated in the new state budget. Jack Payne, a UF senior vice president for agricultural and natural resources, said the lab has been open since 2004 at the Indian River Research and Education Center.
UF said Florida has the largest invasive infestations of any state, and that the center was poised to release the first control agent to control the Brazilian peppertree, which has infested nearly 700,000 acres in central and south Florida and has been particularly abundant in the Everglades.