Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam says frustration with Washington, D.C. — "a hot, wet, dysfunctional mess" — led him to give up a top position among U.S. House Republicans four years ago to pursue a job in his home state where he could make a positive difference. Putnam's plan worked.
The commissioner has earned another four years in the job.
Putnam has stepped up his department's promotion of Florida's $100 billion agriculture industry through advertising, retail partnerships and international marketing. Despite the serious problems afflicting the citrus industry in recent years — which Putnam has been working to help solve — Florida agriculture overall has grown since he took office, adding thousands of jobs, millions in tax revenues and nearly $1 billion in exports.
Meanwhile, Putnam has expanded his department's consumer-protection activities with efforts to crack down on bogus charities and identity thieves. He persuaded state legislators to drop the annual fee for Floridians to subscribe to the do-not-call list for telemarketers, and a half-million new numbers have been added to the list.
As he fulfilled these traditional roles, Putnam also persuaded legislators to put his department in charge of the state's school-lunch program. He has linked schools with local farmers who provide fresher, healthier meals at a lower cost with Florida-grown fruits and vegetables. And he worked with legislators to create a new, more-stable state funding stream for public school construction and maintenance.
Putnam, one of four members of the Florida Cabinet, has helped draw attention in Tallahassee to one of the state's most pressing problems: its threatened water supply. He has a sophisticated understanding of this complex issue, and he has made water conservation in agriculture one of his department's priorities.
He'll be an invaluable partner next year if legislators follow through on their promise to revamp water policy. We don't share his hostility to federal water regulations, however.
Putnam's record as agriculture commissioner is not free of blemishes. He joined other top Republicans in the state on private hunting trips to Texas sponsored by the sugar industry, which has fought efforts to tighten water-quality regulations in Florida. He voted with other Cabinet members in 2011 to make it harder for ex-convicts to regain their civil and voting rights.
Putnam's opponent, Democrat Thaddeus Hamilton, ran for agriculture commissioner in 2010 with no party affiliation and garnered 2 percent of the vote that year. He has a good background for the job, having worked 36 years for the U.S. Department of Agriculture, and an honorable record of service to the nation as a retired lieutenant colonel in the U.S. Army. But Hamilton can't make a convincing case for voters to hire him and fire Putnam.
We endorse Adam Putnam for re-election as agriculture commissioner.