Farm labor and water issues took center stage along with candidates for Florida’s top elected positions at the 11th quadrennial Farm Credit/Agriculture Communicators of Florida Candidates Forum on October 4, 2018.
Candidates for governor, attorney general, chief financial officer, agriculture commissioner and U.S. Senate were invited to outline their plans to lead Florida’s second largest industry, a multi billion-dollar contributor to the state’s economy that employs more than 2 million people.
In a straw poll of the nearly 200 agriculture leaders, growers and business owners, the candidates with the majority were: U.S. Senate - Rick Scott (R); Governor - Ron DeSantis (R), Attorney General - Ashley Moody (R), Chief Financial Officer - Jimmy Patronis (R); and Agriculture Commissioner - Matt Caldwell (R).
The top issue affecting Florida agriculture, according to the straw poll, was a concern for policies impacting labor and workforce at 45 percent of survey votes, followed by water and natural resources, consumer perception of agriculture, and pest/disease control.
Candidates for agriculture commissioner were featured at the forum, taking questions on key issues and providing an overview on the office.
Matt Caldwell, Republican candidate for agriculture commissioner, said, "This is the single most complicated commissioner of agriculture job in the nation, with 300-plus commodities."
"You have to be prepared for all different ways it will come at you - pest and disease issues you have to grapple with, trade issues you have to deal with, and so on …..and then you have all the different responsibilities associated with this office. It touches every single one of the 21 million Floridians in the state every day," Caldwell added.
Nikki Fried, Democratic candidate for ag commissioner, said she will look for ways to further support the industry through the Florida Department of Agriculture’s initiative to promote the sale of high quality products and commodities grown in the state.
"This is one of the most important things that the commissioner of agriculture does. We are your advocates, we are your face, and we need to make sure that Fresh from Florida is not only thriving … that the entire state of Florida knows exactly what you do every single day," Fried said.
The Candidates Forum at the Orange County Convention Center is held in conjunction with the Florida Nursery, Growers and Landscape Association’s The Landscape Show, the state's largest horticultural trade and educational event.
"It is imperative the state’s leaders understand the importance of agriculture as a critical component of the state’s economic health – and for our growers, ranchers, producers and ag business leaders to be informed voters about where the candidates stand," said Tory Moore, chair of the Farm Credit / Agriculture Communicators of Florida Forum.
"Every four years, this forum under the strong partnership between Farm Credit and the Ag Communicators of Florida allows for that interaction to take place between the candidates and Florida’s leading agriculturists," said Moore, who serves as president of the Florida Ag Communicators and is director of marketing for Farm Credit of Central Florida.