While Gov. Rick Scott, Attorney General Pam Bondi and lawmakers addressed reporters during the annual AP Legislative Planning Session on Wednesday, state Commissioner of Agriculture Adam Putnam was wrapping up a four-day trip to Panama.
His traveling companions: PortMiami Director Bill Johnson; Plant City strawberry grower Gary Wishnatzki; Robert Behr and Joel Sellers, of Florida’s Natural Growers; and Richard Gaskalla of the state agriculture department.
The purpose of the trip was twofold, Putnam explained before leaving on Sunday.
For one, Putnam wants to help Florida growers expand their footprint in the Panamanian retail market.
"We think that because of our proximity [to Latin America] and our quality product, we can be on the leading edge of opening up these Latin American markets," he said.
The delegation also intended to explore ways Florida could capitalize on the expansion of the Panama Canal.
Said Putnam: "Florida is betting big on being the first stop for these giants ships after the Panama Canal has doubled in size."
The group was scheduled to meet with Panama Canal Administrator Jorge Quijano and Minister of Agriculture Oscar Osorio, among others.
The trip was Putnam's first trip abroad as agriculture commissioner.