(1) The Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services shall serve as the state agency for screening applicants for state funding pursuant to this section and for certifying an applicant as a qualified agriculture education and promotion facility as defined in subsection (3).
(2) The Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services shall adopt rules pursuant to ss. 120.536(1) and 120.54 for the receipt and processing of applications for funding of projects pursuant to this section.
(3) As used in this section, the term “agriculture education and promotion facility” means an exhibition hall, arena, civic center, exposition center, or other capital project or facility which can be used for exhibitions, demonstrations, trade shows, classrooms, civic events, and other purposes that promote agriculture, horticulture, livestock, equestrian, and other resources of the state and educate the residents as to these resources.
(4) The Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services shall certify a facility as an agriculture education and promotion facility if the Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services determines that: (a) The applicant is a unit of local government as defined in s. 218.369, or a fair association as defined in s. 616.001(11), which is responsible for the planning, design, permitting, construction, renovation, management, and operation of the agriculture education and promotion facility or holds title to the property on which such facility is to be developed and located.
(b) The applicant has projections, verified by the Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services, which demonstrate that the agriculture education and promotion facility will serve more than 25,000 visitors annually.
(c) The municipality in which the facility is located, or the county if the facility is located in an unincorporated area, has certified by resolution after a public hearing that the proposed agriculture education and promotion facility serves a public purpose.
(d) The applicant has demonstrated that it has provided, is capable of providing, or has financial or other commitments to provide more than 40 percent of the costs incurred or related to the planning, design, permitting, construction, or renovation of the facility. The applicant may include the value of the land and any improvements thereon in determining its contribution to the development of the facility.
(5) The Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services shall competitively evaluate applications for funding of an agriculture education and promotion facility. If the number of applicants exceeds three, the Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services shall rank the applications based upon criteria developed by the Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services, with priority given in descending order to the following items:
(a) The intended use of the funds by the applicant, with priority given to the construction of a new facility.
(b) The amount of local match, with priority given to the largest percentage of local match proposed.
(c) The location of the facility in a brownfield site as defined in s. 376.79(4), a rural enterprise zone as defined in s. 290.004, an agriculturally depressed area as defined in s. 570.74, or a county that has lost its agricultural land to environmental restoration projects.
(d) The net increase, as a result of the facility, of total available exhibition, arena, or civic center space within the jurisdictional limits of the local government in which the facility is to be located, with priority given to the largest percentage increase of total exhibition, arena, or civic center space.
(e) The historic record of the applicant in promoting agriculture and educating the public about agriculture, including, without limitation, awards, premiums, scholarships, auctions, and other such activities.
(f) The highest projection on paid attendance attracted by the agriculture education and promotion facility and the proposed economic impact on the local community.
(g) The location of the facility with respect to an Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences (IFAS) facility, with priority given to facilities closer in proximity to an IFAS facility.
(6) Funds may not be expended to develop or subsidize privately owned facilities, except for facilities owned by fair associations as defined in s. 616.001(11).
(7) An applicant may use funds provided pursuant to this section only for the public purpose of paying for the planning, design, permitting, construction, or renovation of an agriculture education and promotion facility or to pay or pledge for the payment of debt service on, or to fund debt service reserve funds, arbitrage rebate obligations, or other amounts payable with respect to, bonds issued for the planning, design, permitting, construction, or renovation of such facility or for the reimbursement of such costs or the refinancing of bonds issued for such purposes.
(8) Applications must be postmarked or electronically submitted by October 1 of each year. The Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services may not recommend funding for less than the requested amount to any applicant certified as an agriculture education and promotion facility; however, funding of certified applicants shall be subject to the amount provided by the Legislature in the General Appropriations Act for this program.