Along with the governor, Florida's Cabinet officers serve as the Board of Clemency, oversee state pension funds and trust accounts, issue bonds, supervise the state's Veterans Affairs, Motor Vehicles, Law Enforcement and Revenue departments and have authority over all local comprehensive plans. They hear appeals of proposed developments of regional impact and administer the conservation and recreational land purchase program.
Democrat Scott Maddox and Republican Adam Putnam have strikingly similar visions of what the Agriculture Department should signify to Floridians. They both would boost its four consumer-protection divisions, for instance, and beef up food-safety efforts.
Mr. Maddox, 42, grew up on a farm in the Redland and now practices law in Tallahassee. He believes the agriculture department is a slumbering giant regarding its regulatory powers, which include carnival rides, furniture movers, telemarketers and pawn shops.
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Mr. Putnam, 36, a cattle rancher, citrus grower and one-term congressman, says the department should be more innovative in promoting renewable energy via plant fibers, controlling agriculture pests and diseases and improving water conservation.
Also on the ballot are Tea Party candidate Ira Chester and nonparty candidate Thad Hamilton, but the real contest is between the almost evenly matched mainstream candidates. Our choice is Mr. Putnam for his depth of knowledge about the department's many mandates and its potential to better serve farmers, consumers and even schoolchildren by getting more fresh produce into public schools.
For Florida commissioner of agriculture The Miami Herald recommends ADAM H. PUTNAM.