With China threatening citrus in trade war, Adam Putnam, Ron DeSantis praise Donald Trump’s tariffs, but Rick Scott is concerned

A trade war with china has many business leaders concerned
Adam Putnam checks freeze damage at a Hillsborough orange grove in 2009 with Michael Sparks of Florida Citrus Mutual [Skip O'Rourke - Times]
Adam Putnam checks freeze damage at a Hillsborough orange grove in 2009 with Michael Sparks of Florida Citrus Mutual [Skip O'Rourke - Times]
Published July 6, 2018|Updated July 6, 2018

Note: This post has been updated

China is threatening retaliatory tariffs against a host of agricultural products produced in Florida, including citrus, vegetables and beef, in response to President Donald Trump's new tariffs. So what do the major candidates on the ballot have to say about a brewing trade war that has many businesses worried?

"I have heard directly from Florida companies who are worried that the Administration's proposal regarding tariffs is not fair and consistent between countries and this is an issue I will continue discussing with the Administration to ensure Florida companies are treated fairly," said Gov. Rick Scott,  in response to The Buzz asking him and other candidates about the president's trade policies.

"I support free and open trade with the world because it is good for Florida and our economy. The reality is that as long as other countries levy tariffs on U.S. produced goods, we must also have the ability to do the same to ensure fairness to American companies and workers," said Scott, who is running for U.S. Senate against Democratic Sen. Bill Nelson. "The real, long term solution to these issues is to reduce our regulatory and tax burden in order to better compete with the global market and employ all tools at our disposal to make sure we're protecting the interests of the U.S. economy."

But Agriculture Commissioner and gubernatorial candidate Adam Putnam applauded the President as did his primary opponent Ron DeSantis.

"As Florida's top agricultural official, I've witnessed firsthand how trade deals can impact our Florida farmers and agriculture industry. I'm pleased that the President is fighting for American jobs and Florida families."

The DeSantis  campaign, (eventually) referred us to his comments in last week's televised Fox News debate. The gist: He dislikes high tariffs. but  fully trusts Trump, who has endorsed him.

"Donald Trump wrote the "Art of the Deal." He knows how to negotiate, and I've talked to him about this," DeSantis said in that debate. "… He's trying to get concessions on behalf of the American people, and I think we should let him do his thing. He's a master negotiator.

Democrat Gwen Graham's campaign noted that she called out Putnam on this very issue a year ago:

"Orange juice is a lifeblood of our state. It is absolutely vital to Florida's agriculture industry and our state's economy. Adam Putnam needs to put Florida first, pick up the phone, call his friend Donald Trump and defend our state's jobs," she said then.

From Democrat Philip Levine: "Adam Putnam is embracing a full-on trade war that is already harming Florida's farmers, just to coddle up to the President and score political points. It's bad enough that Republicans in Washington are slamming our already-suffering citrus industry; now our own agricultural commissioner is jumping on the bandwagon. Adam Putnam is selling out our farmers to fulfill his aspirations of higher office, and cannot be trusted to lead the state of Florida."

Democrat Jeff Greene: "Our Commissioner of Agriculture should put Florida's citrus, vegetable, and beef industries before his own political aspirations and call Trump's trade war what it is: dangerous. This isn't one of Trump's real-estate deals, and his typical approach of provocation and humiliation won't work when dealing with world leaders. Trump is playing with fire, and the livelihoods of Florida's farmers and workers are hanging in the balance. If our products aren't fulfilling supply chains, China will fill them elsewhere. It may be very hard to walk back from this. A responsible leader understands what's at stake and sits down at the table to negotiate."

A spokesman for Democrat Andrew Gillum: "Mayor Gillum's consistently said that Donald Trump is a danger to this country — and now it's clear he's threatening Florida's workers, farmers, and companies, too."