Florida 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 difference.
Putnam's plan worked.
Since his election in 2010, he has improved results in his department's traditional roles of promoting Florida agriculture and protecting consumers. And he has launched nontraditional initiatives that have benefited other Floridians, especially schoolchildren. Plus, he's got a laser-like focus on the state's water challenges.
The commissioner has earned another four years.
Putnam has stepped up promotion of Florida's $100 billion agriculture industry through advertising, retail partnerships and international marketing. Despite the devastating challenges facing the citrus industry, Florida agriculture has grown since he took office, adding thousands of jobs, millions in tax revenues and nearly $1 billion in exports.
Putnam also persuaded legislators to put his department in charge of the state's school lunch program. He has linked schools with farmers to provide fresher, healthier meals at a lower cost. And working outside the box, he helped legislators create a new, more stable funding stream for public school construction and maintenance.
Putnam, one of four members of the Florida Cabinet, has helped draw attention to one of the state's most pressing problems: its threatened water supply. He has a sophisticated understanding of this complex issue, and 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 opponent, Democrat Thaddeus Hamilton of Sunrise, worked 36 years for the U.S. Department of Agriculture and served honorably in the U.S. Army, retiring as a lieutenant colonel. But he cannot make a convincing case for voters to hire him and fire Putnam.
Adam Putnam deserves re-election as agriculture commissioner.