Even though Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis took over in Tallahassee this week, Florida Democrats showcased new state Agriculture Commissioner Nikki Fried who also assumed her new duties.
“As commissioner, she will oversee a $1.8 billion department with nearly 4,000 employees, a $137 billion economic impact, and widespread responsibility for Florida’s food production and safety, consumer protection and licensing, and our state’s waters, forests, energy, and more,” Fried’s team noted about the only Democrat holding statewide office in the Sunshine State.
“The responsibilities of our department are vast, and the opportunities are great,” Fried said as she took office on Tuesday. “Today is day one, the day we’ve been working towards — and we’re ready to work on behalf of the people of the great state of Florida.
“Our state faces significant challenges, but together, we will rise to the occasion and work to build a Florida that is better for everyone. In a changing economy and environment, we will build a forward-thinking and resilient state, ready to take on the challenges of the future. I’m honored to serve as your next Commissioner of Agriculture and Consumer Services,” Fried added.
Fried’s team presented her as an “advocate for children, schools, and medical marijuana, taking office with a bold agenda” and listed out several of her priorities including:
Cleaner Waters: Combating the red tide and blue-green toxic algae choking our waterways and threatening our economy demands our full effort and attention. Commissioner Fried will seek to create a stronger partnership with Florida’s agriculture community and bring all stakeholders to the table to find and implement real solutions to this crisis, and will work towards stronger adoption of best management practices that reduce pollution into our water sources.
Accountability on Weapons Licensing: Adequately screening applicants for concealed weapons permits is an extraordinary responsibility, and one that prior failures have shown belongs under the purview of law enforcement professionals. Commissioner Fried will ensure that thorough, complete background checks are completed for all concealed weapons permits, because the safety of every Floridian is at stake.
Expanding Patient Access to Medical Marijuana: The people of Florida spoke clearly when they voted for access to medical marijuana. Commissioner Fried will do everything in her power to ensure that Florida’s patients have access to this medicine in the forms that doctors deem best — not politicians.
Consumer Services: Florida should never be known as the top state for fraud. Commissioner Fried will make consumer services a top priority of the Department, building stronger relationships with law enforcement, local governments, and other stakeholders to ensure our state’s consumers are protected from those who would do them economic harm.
Hemp Production: Hemp’s reclassification provides an enormous opportunity for Florida agriculture to drive job growth and revenue in a potential multi-billion-dollar industry. Commissioner Fried will work to harness this potential and make Florida a national leader in hemp.
Agricultural Innovation: Commissioner Fried will push for innovative technologies and practices that will keep our agriculture community – Florida’s second largest economic driver – competitive and successful.
Expanded Availability of Healthy Foods: Commissioner Fried will work with our growers to fight food insecurity, ensure quality nutrition in our schools, and take on the challenges that stem from a lack of access to healthy food.
Renewable Energy and Climate Change: No state in America is more vulnerable to the intensifying effects of climate change. Through the Department’s Office of Energy, Commissioner Fried will push for new, collaborative approaches to increase renewable energy production and mitigate climate change, ensuring Florida does its part to build a sustainable future.
In the meantime, with Fried only being 41, the Florida Democratic Party (FDP) is going out of its way to showcase her.
FDP Chairwoman Terrie Rizzo sung Fried’s praises on Tuesday.
“It is a new chapter in Florida with Commissioner Nikki Fried in the Cabinet,” Rizzo insisted. “Commissioner Fried’s swearing-in represents the first time Democrats will oversee the Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services, and the first time in eight years Democrats have had a voice in Florida’s Cabinet.”
Rizzo highlighted Fried’s efforts against the National Rifle Association (NRA) and other supporters of the Second Amendment.
“Floridians can count on Nikki to stand up to the NRA, and work to make Florida a safer place to live,” Rizzo said. “Nikki will be a champion for our environment, working to implement protections for our coasts and water. As the only Democrat on the clemency board, Nikki will play a critical role in seeing that the process is fair, and that Amendment 4 will be fully implemented.
“Democrats could not be more proud to have Commissioner Fried as a leader, and look forward to seeing what she accomplishes,” Rizzo concluded.
Kevin Derby can be reached at Kevin.Derby@floridadaily.com.