Let’s check in with the Florida Department of Agriculture

Wilton Simpson, Florida Commissioner of Agriculture, joined Good Morning Keys on KeysTalk 96.9/102.5FM yesterday morning to talk about what’s been going on in the state.

The commissioner visited the port of Tampa yesterday.

Simpson said, “Through my 10 years in the Florida Senate and obviously the last couple years of senate president, we had to really keep our ports up and running through the pandemic. We had to put additional dollars towards funding those ports, but our ports around this state are economic engines, for this entire study, during my career, mostly under Governor Scott, we spent billions of dollars having deepwater ports, making sure we could have our import export business within the state and the tens of thousands of jobs that are created by ports and the significance of them really cannot be understated.”

The ports include tourism as well with the cruise ships.

Simpson said, “You have some local city governments that are ultra liberal about these issues and trying to shut our ports down, but it’s a major economic engine. In 2015, we removed the sales tax on manufacturing equipment in this state. That was a large priority of Governor Scott at the time, the jobs governor. And you’re seeing the fruits of that labor in all of the things that you’re seeing going on today, right? We’ve got a dynamic economy in Florida. Over the last 10 or 12 years, we’ve sort of transitioned just from tourism to more manufacturing, more import/export. So it was real honor to see that port in action yesterday and the potential growth there.”

Ports also maintain the supply chain.

Simpson said, “The pandemic taught us some things, that our supply chain is actually very fragile. The more larger entities that continue to gobble up the smaller suppliers, it makes us more and more vulnerable. So as a state when we decide to limit commerce within our ports, legal commerce, it makes us as a state more vulnerable, which obviously makes us as a country be more vulnerable. At the Department of Agriculture, it’s all about making sure that we have the most safe and affordable abundant food supply, and to make sure that our supply chains are available to work, and we clearly want to continue to expand our economy in the state of Florida. We’re the Free State of Florida for a reason. It’s because we’re going to continue to be a business friendly state. We’re going to make sure that people have the opportunity to expand their businesses and a lot of those jobs today are being created through the import/export business, which primarily goes through either a Florida port or other ports around the country. We’re proud of those accomplishments.”

Winn Dixie stores have been sold to Aldi. What changes should we expect?

Simpson said, “Clearly, Germany is an ally of the United States. Germany is a great trading partner of the United States. That’s the type of business that we want to do. This last year, we actually restricted, I believe there were seven countries involved, countries that can no longer buy our agricultural land, buy our land around our military installations in the state. China and Russia are at the top of that list, North Korea, Iran, and so on. When a German company is expanding and growing within our state, we’re very proud of that. We’re very proud of the competition, they’ll bring. I wish them luck. I think they’ll do a good job with it. It will ultimately create more jobs, strengthen our supply chain, and bring more competition and of course, now with inflation the way it’s been the last two or three years, clearly more competition should drive down inflation tendencies.”

Operation Candy Crush is underway.

Simpson explained, “We’ve removed over 80,000 packages from stores, targeting our children with very high THC potency products. These packaging was just like Skittles, or gummy bears or things of that nature. We’ve had 1000 Children nearly in 2022, in hospitals and emergency rooms, because of overdosing, because they thought they were eating candy. We’ve heard a lot of stories in the last month, where they’ve taken these products to school, and didn’t realize they were not candy and then you got three or four kids they shared their candy with what they thought were Skittles, or gummy bears or something. So the state legislature passed a law last year and we worked with them to say you can no longer target our children, you’ve got to be at least 21 years old to buy these products. We’re in the process of making some rules that’s not going to allow multiple doses of the product in one single, like gummy bear, one single product. They have to have safety packages to where small kids cannot open these packages. It’s very devastating these children that have been affected. Your Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services has done a tremendous job getting these out of the stores and getting them out of harm’s way with our children. We’re going to protect our children in the state at all cost.”

You might be seeing some new messages on gas pumps in the future.

Simpson said, “School just is back in throughout the state now. Caregivers, parents are having to have new travel patterns because of getting their children to and from school or timing of school. What we’re doing and we put our first one on last week in Brevard County but our inspectors will be putting the stickers on, so when you see the sticker that says that your gas pump has been inspected for accuracy, also on that will that now be a PSA at the bottom that just says please check for children or pets in your cars. In the country this year I think we’ve lost 15 children to heat strokes that were accidentally left in cars. Six of those children were in Florida. We believe if we continuously remind people to please check your back seats for your children or your pets, that it will clearly have an effect and hopefully we’ll be saving those lives.”

The Department of Agriculture is always there to help.

Simpson said, “We’re going to continue every day, getting up making sure that we’re reviewing our supply chain, making sure we’re supporting our agriculture community. Food is a national security, we can’t live without it. We need to make sure that we are every day vigilant on these issues and making sure that our local governments are not pushing the farmers out of business and making sure farmers have the ability to continue to produce the most safe, affordable, abundant food anywhere in the world.”