Much has been made of Nikki Fried‘s, the Democrat running to be Florida’s next agriculture commissioner, ties to the medical marijuana industry. In fact, she’s made access to medical marijuana a central part of her campaign.
Is there more to the Democrat that has never held elective office than just a puff of smoke? Florida Daily asked the Ft. Lauderdale Democrat about her plans if she wins and Fried wants to do much more.
Fried told Florida Daily that she intends to keep the “Fresh From Florida” campaign which term limited Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam has championed in his eight years in Tallahassee. The program spends millions each year promoting Florida farm products, including sponsoring sporting events and other marketing efforts.
“I think that ‘Fresh From Florida’ is actually one of the programs out of that department I’d like to keep and enhance,” she told Florida Daily. “It supports our local farming community. I think that people…more and more want to know where their food is coming from. You see, all across the country, farm to table kind of programs. I want to push even more our farm to school program.”
Fried is an attorney and had worked in lobbying (she called it consulting) in Tallahassee. She told Florida Daily she is proud of legislation she helped shepherd through the House and Senate that gives attorneys representing foster care children with special needs more help to navigate the system and hearings. Attorneys are made available to children in foster care with disabilities, those with psychotropic medications and other children in foster care.
“At the end of the day, the whole point of the foster care system is for the best interest of the child and reunification with their family if they can. We were seeing so many of these cases prolonged for such a very long time and if they had attorneys might have moved the cases forward,” she said.
If she wins, Fried promised to be an independent voice no matter which party controls the Cabinet. She says the agriculture commissioner oversees many facets of Floridians’ everyday life. She included some examples, ranging from food safety to fitness centers to auto repair shops.
“Every single day, people interact with types of companies that would potentially fall underneath my responsibilities,” Fried said.
Fried promised to ramp up enforcement and consumer protections if elected, including telephones.
“Telemarketing scams and all of the robocalling and the do not call list,” she said. “We all have 30 different numbers blocked on our phones at any given time,and I think that is because of the advancements in technology. We haven’t gone after any of these companies and that is definitely is going to be one of the priorities that I am going to look into,” she said.
She also plans to go after gas pump skimmers. Turning to other consumer protection efforts, Fried said she is looking for help to get it done.
“Some of that may be giving some local control,” she said. “Our local law enforcement wants to be able to go after these individuals and to help us with the fraud that is happening. My priority would be see how we can do local partnerships and see if we can’t empower our local governments to kind of help here.”
Fried had tough words for the National Rifle Association (NRA) posting on Twitter at the start of the month that she won’t be beholden to them.
“It’s not a matter of going after them,” Fried insisted to Florida Daily. “They obviously have a very strong membership and everybody has a right to be a part of an organization that supports their values and their ideals.”
She said, if elected, she would not have a close relationship with the NRA as Putnam has had during his two terms.
“My concern is that the NRA has been so in control of this office in overseeing policy that they are more in charge than the elected official or their staff,” Fried said.
Fried faces state Rep. Matt Caldwell, R-Lehigh Acres, in next month’s general election. Later this week, Florida Daily will profile Caldwell.
Reach Mike Synan at Mike.Synan@floridadaily.com.