Adam Putnam has moved quickly in his first term to make the commissioner of agriculture and consumer services a more relevant voice for all Floridians. His work in promoting exports, clean energy, nutrition and water policy has had a largely favorable impact across the state. Putnam deserves a second term.
Putnam, 40, is an experienced hand, having served four years in the Florida House and 10 years in Congress before being elected agriculture commissioner in 2010. The Bartow Republican is a fifth-generation Floridian, and his family interests in cattle and citrus help give him a broad grasp of agricultural issues.
A strong advocate for farmers, Putnam has raised the alarm over the need to battle the killing disease called citrus greening. He has traveled abroad to promote Florida agriculture, and as the point person in state government for energy policy, Putnam has focused attention on broadening the state's energy mix to include more renewable energy sources. He recently led the Florida State Fair, which falls under his purview, to kill a badly conceived development proposal that would have squandered an opportunity to better use the property.
As the state's chief consumer advocate, Putnam responded to abuses by charities by pushing legislation that cracked down on predatory practices by nonprofits and their telemarketing arms. He also persuaded lawmakers to transfer control of school food and nutrition programs from the Department of Education to his agency, a moved aimed at reducing child obesity by putting more fruits and vegetables on the school cafeteria menu.
Putnam joined fellow state Republican leaders in wrongly characterizing a legitimate effort by the federal government to force the state to clean up its waterways as an overreach of authority. There is nothing unreasonable about Washington's efforts, particularly in a state that has not always been a good public steward for clean water. But Putnam has talked for years about the need to safeguard Florida's water resources. His ideas for alternative water supply projects and loan and matching grant programs could help the Legislature next year as it looks to consider creative ways to generate new water supplies.
Thad Hamilton, 64, is a retired Army officer and federal employee from Broward County. Hamilton wants to foster a more environmentally friendly and sustainable approach to farming. But the Democrat is not running a viable campaign.
Putnam has expanded his department's traditional role and taken on several worthwhile public causes. He has supported the cleanup of the headwaters entering the Everglades, and as a member of the state Cabinet he has been a strong voice in forcing the state to acknowledge the abuses that took place at the closed boys' reform school in Marianna. He has a knowledge of the state and appreciation of Florida that is all too rare today in Tallahassee, and he is pragmatic about getting things done.
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For Florida commissioner of agriculture, the Tampa Bay Times recommends Adam Putnam.