THE CAPITAL, TALLAHASSEE, Jan. 4, 2011 --
Flanked by his four children and wife, Melissa, Adam Putnam became the commissioner of the Florida Department of Agricultural and Consumer Services on Tuesday moments before Gov. Rick Scott took his oath and delivered his inaugural address.
Putman, a fifth-generation Florida farmer who left his Polk County-based seat in the U.S. Congress to run for agricultural commissioner last year, swore his oath on a Bible that has recorded births in his family since 1867, he told the News Service of Florida during a reception in his new office.
The oath was administered by Supreme Court Chief Justice Charles Canady, who preceded Putnam in representing the 12th Congressional District. Putnam, a cattle rancher who was elected to Congress in 2000 when he was just 26 and to the Florida House at just 22, pledged to use his new post to help Scott fulfill his campaign promise to put the state back to work.
“We’re focused on anything that we can (develop) out of the agricultural industry, using clean energy, renewable energy opportunities to create jobs in rural Florida,” he said. “I think that holds the greatest promise. Agriculture - of our three pillars of the economy - is still the strongest, even after these weather events.”
Last November, Putnam defeated Democrat Scott Maddox 56 percent to 38 percent in a low-profile campaign to replace term-limited former Agriculture Commissioner Charlie Bronson. Putnam said Tuesday that Bronson left a “strong legacy,” during his eight years as agricultural commissioner and promised to continue his Farm-to-Fuel program to increase the use of biofuels, which most experts agree is the most available clean energy type in Florida.
“That’s what we intend to build on,” he said. “Seizing on the new opportunities that are there, for Florida to not only provide the food and fiber for the nation, but also homegrown fuel. We want to make sure we keep the climate, keep the environment that allows agriculture to prosper, but also explore some of these new marketing opportunities that will create processing jobs and logistical jobs for rural Florida.”
Now that he is in charge of a $100 billion industry that touches a third of the state’s landmass, Putnam said his office would play a “critically important role” in the state’s promised economic recovery.
“With tourism and construction still facing hardship, agriculture is really a bedrock industry for job creation and economic development that (does not get) the attention and glory the other industries sometimes do,” he said.
As for his own inauguration, Putnam said “it’s just a thrill.” He was the third-highest Republican in Congress as chairman of U.S. House Republican Conference until the GOP lost the chamber in 2006 and had been rumored as a possible candidate for the U.S. Senate seat won by Marco Rubio in 2010.
“It’s a great day for the state of Florida, an exciting time, a new beginning for not only the new governor, but the new Cabinet, an opportunity to roll up our sleeves and do everything we can to create an environment to bring that unemployment rate down and create new opportunities for Floridians,” Putnam said.