State Politics

What you need to know: the race for agriculture commissioner

Adam Putnam
Adam Putnam

The race for state agriculture commissioner pits well-known Republican incumbent Adam Putnam against Democrat Thaddeus “Thad” Hamilton.

Hamilton won just 2 percent of the vote when he ran for the position with no party affiliation in 2010. Putnam has the upper hand again, having raised more than $2.7 million for his reelection campaign.

The winner of the race will oversee the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services. The sweeping state agency helps farmers, promotes Florida’s 300 agricultural commodities around the world, manages state forests, safeguards consumers, assists with the school lunch program and processes concealed-weapon license applications. The commissioner of agriculture is also a member of the Florida Cabinet.

Thaddeus ‘Thad’ Hamilton, 64 (Democrat)

Experience: U.S. Department of Agriculture Natural Resources Conservation Services (1970-2006); U.S. Army (three years active duty; 25 years with the National Guard); former chairman of the Broward County Land Preservation Advisory Council; former member of the Governor’s Commission for a Sustainable South Florida.

Education: Bachelor of Science in Agriculture, University of Arkansas at Pine Bluff.

Proposed energy policy: Hamilton says Florida needs to reduce its dependence on fossil fuels and rely more on alternative forms of energy. He wants to see Florida invest in solar and wind power. He also supports education programs that teach children and adults about alternative sources of energy.

Proposed water policy: Hamilton considers water policy his top priority. He supports the use of innovative irrigation and water-recovery systems. He also said the department must focus on cleaning up the state’s agricultural and urban environments to ensure “pollutants and nitrates don’t get into our system.”

Position on medical marijuana: Hamilton supports Amendment 2, which would legalize medical marijuana. “I see no reason why we shouldn’t use medical marijuana to ease the suffering of the citizens of the state of Florida,” he said. He added that medical marijuana has the potential to create agriculture jobs in Florida.

Assets: $580,000 in property, including a home in Sunrise.

Liabilities: $515,000 in mortgages and other liabilities.

Income: $81,000 in pensions from the U.S. Army and USDA; $110,000 from rental properties.

Fundraising: Hamilton has raised $21,163 in campaign contributions and taken out $13,140 in loans. He has spent $25,027.

Personal: Hamilton and his wife, Karen, have three adult children.

Contact:,, 954-459-5490.

Adam Putnam, 40 (Republican)

Experience: Florida Commissioner of Agriculture (2011-14); U.S. House of Representatives (2001-11); Florida House of Representatives (1996-2000).

Education: Bachelor of Science in Food and Resource Economics, University of Florida.

Proposed energy policy: Putnam supports nuclear power, but says Florida should put more of a priority on developing sustainable energy. In 2012, he promoted legislation that provided tax incentives to expand the production of renewable energy. Earlier this year, Putnam championed a plan to shift some revenue from the corporate energy sales tax into school maintenance and construction.

Proposed water policy: Putnam said he favors water policy that is long-term and comprehensive “to address the challenges we face in every region of the state.” He wants to promote the use of reclaimed water instead of groundwater for industrial processes, and develop a shallow-water storage plan to control Lake Okeechobee’s water levels.

Position on medical marijuana: Putnam opposes Amendment 2. “No one has ever prescribed smoking anything as a medicine,” he recently told the Tampa Bay Times Editorial Board. “Florida does not need to legalize marijuana for any reason in the Constitution.”

Assets: $623,814 in property and buildings, including homes in Bartow and Tallahassee; $7.2 million in business interests (including a 20 percent stake in Putnam Groves Inc.), plus securities and bank accounts.

Liabilities: $115,704 mortgage.

Income: $300,844 from Putnam Groves; $123,893 salary from the state; $100,863 from securities, property sales and other sources.

Fundraising: Putnam has raised $2.9 million for his campaign and spent about $789,000.

Personal: Putnam and his wife, Melissa, have four children.

Contact:, contact the campaign at 863-537-7000.

Contact Kathleen McGrory at