A New Era For Florida Ag

Guest Column: Adam H. Putnam

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With Florida’s economy continuing to face stiff headwinds, agriculture stands out as a strong economic pillar, generating jobs, ad valorem revenues, and economic growth. As Commissioner of Agriculture, it is my mission to work with producers to create a climate for agriculture to thrive for future generations to come.

We have begun a new chapter for the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services, where technology and innovation will be used to modernize and streamline our efforts to maximize the resources we have available. We will emphasize the importance of the agricultural community and its relevance to all Floridians, regardless of location or livelihood. We will act boldly and proactively to accomplish our common goals, setting an example for how government and industry can creatively partner with one another.

Proactive Measures

While we continue to support the growing industry to overcome challenges like the December freezes and invasive pests and disease, the Department also will be more proactive in supporting the industry to lead the nation in emerging technologies and varieties. We will partner with federal agencies and state universities to support research that will enable producers to respond to threats in an effective and efficient manner. We will modernize communication mechanisms at the Department to ensure producers are aware of current threats and are equipped with timely and accurate information.

One of my top priorities at the Department is addressing the challenges facing our state’s water quality and quantity. We have established the Office of Energy and Water Policy to proactively address the challenges facing our state. Nutrients, heavy metals, and other toxins all impact the quality of Florida’s water bodies and the overall amount of water available for use. I will work to establish and maintain a high standard of water quality supported by sound science and attainable goals.

Feeding The Need

Florida also can become a leader in reducing childhood obesity and the number of long-term complications associated with it by connecting growers to schools, food banks, and public assistance programs. Expanding access to locally grown, fresh fruits and vegetables at food banks, schools, and urban core areas is essential to ensuring the nutrition and healthy eating habits of Floridians for generations to come while raising demand and maximizing the use of our products.
 
Lastly, expanding the commodity mix beyond traditional crops without impacting the food supply will be essential to meet growing demands and remain competitive worldwide. The greatest potential for agriculture’s expansion is through the development of clean, renewable energy production. Providing access to research, resources, and tools that will expand our agriculture operations into renewable energy producers will not only result in an enormous job creation opportunity for our state, but also add potential new revenue streams to growers’ bottom line. I am excited about the trust placed in me to lead this Department and serve this unique industry. There is no finer group of people to work with and no better time for us all to seize on new opportunities in our timeless industry.