(Feb. 19, 9 a.m.) Rep. Adam Putnam, R-Fla., formally threw his hat into the ring for Florida agriculture commissioner’s race.

The
four-term congressman and former member of the U.S. House of
Representatives Agriculture Committee and the House’s rules and budget
committees announced his candidacy in his hometown of Bartow, Fla., on
Feb. 18.

Mike Stuart, president of the Maitland-based Florida
Fruit & Vegetable Association attended the rally. Although he
personally supports Putnam, Stuart said the association does not
endorse candidates.

Stuart said Putnam, a fifth-generation
Floridian whose family has citrus and cattle farming operations in Polk
County, understands the depth and complexity of the issues and
challenges facing agriculture.

“Agriculture is his first love,”
Stuart said. “Adam is looking at the job and recognizing that it’s more
than just about agriculture, but it’s about Florida and its economy and
maintaining and building a strong agricultural foundation for the
state. When we get into an economic situation like now, with downturns
in development and fewer tourists, he understands the important element
of having an industry like agriculture to pick up the slack.”

Florida
Citrus Mutual, Lakeland, is endorsing Putnam. Reggie Brown, executive
vice president of the Florida Tomato Exchange, Maitland, was on hand at
the candidate’s announcement rally.

Putnam said the race
represents an opportunity to return to his agricultural roots and apply
his experience with citrus and cattle, the state legislature and
congress to protect the state’s 20 million consumers and one of its
biggest industries.

Putnam is one of three Republicans seeking
the commissioner’s position. The others are Marty Bowen, a Haines City,
Fla., state representative and Carey Baker, a state senator from
Eustis, Fla. No Democrat has announced a candidacy for the position.

The original version of this story incorrectly named industry trade groups as endorsers of Putnam's candidacy.