The Department of Agriculture touches a whole lot in our lives and the employees there take their jobs very seriously.
Wilton Simpson, Florida Commissioner of Agriculture, joined Good Morning Keys on KeysTalk 96.9/102.5FM this morning to talk about what’s been going on in the state of Florida.
The mission of the department is incredibly important.
Simpson said, “There are a lot of moving parts. There are I believe 16 divisions and 4,500 employees that work around the state. We all have the same ultimate mission. We want Florida to not only have the best supply chain in the state, to make sure we’re able to produce our most safe, affordable, abundant food, but we get up every day knowing that food is a national security issue. I always compare it to our energy policy in the country.”
If something happens overseas, oil goes up, that affects a whole lot of people. Food is a similar national security issue.
Simpson said, “Think about the idea of no food in the grocery stores for a week or two weeks. Every day our job is to get up and make sure that we don’t put ourselves in that position.”
Monroe County certainly imports food, so it’s an important supply for the Keys.
Simpson said, “The largest division is our forestry division. When you see the tragedy in California with all the forest fires burning out of control, a lot of that is due to mismanagement of those systems in that state. So what we try to do in Florida is we try to have a very aggressive control burn program and other programs that would prevent a fire from being able to burn and spread like that.”
The Forestry Division of the Florida Department of Agriculture is responsible for those programs.
Simpson said, “If we want to insure that we’re going to have farm land in perpetuity, we go in and buy development rights from these large tracks of land, primarily in the wildlife corridor.”
The wildlife corridor represents almost all of agriculture in the state.
Simpson said, “If you look at a map of the state of Florida at night time, where you see all the lights everywhere, everywhere it’s dark is basically the wildlife corridor.”
In addition to providing agriculture for the state, the wildlife corridor also serves as a major water aquifer recharge in the state and allows wildlife to roam the state as well.
The law enforcement division deals with gas skimmers and waste measures.
Pest control, school lunches and the conceal/carry program are all covered under the department.
Simpson said, “We touch many aspects of your every day life and we’re going to try to do it in a way that you don’t really know we’re there, but certainly the results tells you that we’re there.”
Simpson had a family farming business for many years before moving into politics in the Florida Senate. He’s now the Florida Commissioner of Agriculture.
He said, “What I envision is I want a Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services that operates in real time. If we have a supply chain break, if we have an invasive species, if we have a forest fire we want to be able to not only respond in real time with a professional from our staff, but with the equipment that we need to be able to identify and react to problems in real time. A lot of times government is very slow in reacting because we don’t have the proper technology available to us to be able to do the testing that we need or the analysis that we need. So it takes a week, two weeks to do that proper analysis before we can react to a consumer problem or an agriculture problem. That’s certainly something we want to change.”
The employees in the department work hard to make sure that happens.
Simpson said, “I think that we’re going to have to go to the legislature this year to look for some resources to upgrade some of our equipment. Some of the equipment that we use are from the 80s and 90s and our computing systems and things of that nature. I think modernizing the office to be able to respond quickly and decisively I think will make a big difference in the long run.”
The Department of Agriculture also works to keep inflation down.
Simpson said, “When Ian came through, it wiped out a significant amount of our farm land and citrus production in the state of Florida. The land will recover, but it will take a year or two to recover. The fencing, the cattle, the dairies, the citrus, the vegetables and things of that nature because you have to go in and in some cases re-fence, and in some case make sure you get your ground fertile again. We need to make sure the government is not adding one more weight to the back of farmers through bureaucracy, through mismanagement of resources and allocations and things of that nature.”
Block grants for hurricane recovery efforts important as well.
Simpson said, “These crops generally take several months to produce or several months to prepare to produce. If we miss a whole season this year because government reaction takes 12 months or 18 months to get the resources we need to recover, well now our supply chain is that much thinner. We need to see food for the national security issue that it is. It’s actually one of the most important things that we do every day is eat, sustain ourselves.”
To put it in perspective, most people need an attorney maybe one or two times a year, but we need a farmer three times a day.
Simpson said, “We need to win in real time because the cost of losing is hurting all of us. We need to make sure that we’re doing everything we can to prevent that.”
The Commissioner of Agriculture is one of four cabinet members that work directly with the governor.
One of Simpson’s policies is a bill that helps protect against tracking gun purchases.
Simpson said, “We have an international group called the ISO. The International Standardization Organization. It’s an extremely liberal group. They are trying to use backdoor techniques to be able to track ammunition sales and gun sales all over the country. Their purpose was to assign a code so that when you go into a store and buy those products it would immediately alert the system that you went in there and did that. This is just a backdoor way of infringing on our Second Amendment rights. Our rights to privacy and in the state of Florida, we’re not going to let that happen. We’re not going to let these liberal groups come in and try to invade our Second Amendment rights.”