Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam told Florida reporters and editors Wednesday that the most important long-term policy issue facing the Sunshine State is quantity and quality of water. A rational long-range water policy is needed, he said, and, if done properly, it can also create jobs the state needs. For example, he said, water desalinization plants should be co-located with two recently permitted nuclear power plants.
Under no circumstances, Putnam said, should the state consider sale or transfer of water use rights from one region of Florida to another. "It would put us on the brink of a civil war," Putnam said.
He reiterated his opposition to a sweeping Arizona-style law to curb illegal immigration, and he expressed his opposition to a money-saving proposal by Gov. Rick Scott to merge the Department of Citrus with Putnam's agency, the Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services. Because the citrus agency is self-supported by a tax on citrus, not general tax dollars, "You don't save any money by eliminating that department," Putnam said.
The boyish 36-year-old is without question the wittiest and most articulate agriculture commissioner in Florida history, effortlessly discussing topics as varied as renewable energy, rural economic development and land conservation, while sprinkling his talk with references to small-town, ag-rich places such as Palmdale, Clewiston and Perry.
The former GOP congressman said he's glad to be "out of the circus that is Washington, D.C.," and brushed aside a question about whether he plans to run for governor, saying: "I don't spend any time thinking about that," which brought gales of laughter from the press gallery.
-- Steve Bousquet