(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.