Despite the immense amount of power that the Florida Commissioner of Agriculture and Consumer Services holds, not many voters are aware what the position entails.
The job description is extensive and requires the commissioner to oversee 19 offices and about 3,600 employees.
Ana Gomez, a student at Florida International University, considers herself to be an informed voter but said she knows little about the position.
“There are so many important decisions to make for this election,” she said. “I’ve been focused on the more mainstream positions. I don’t know who the candidates for Florida agriculture commissioner are, and I don’t believe I’ve ever truly been informed on what this position is to begin with.”
Julie Kramer, a volunteer for Get out The Vote, said it was “a shame” the position doesn’t get more attention.
“This is a very powerful position and personally affects every person living and consuming goods in Florida,” she said. “The person who is elected will have a broad influence over other areas like voter restoration rights, gun permits, consumer protection and climate issues.”
The commissioner will be in charge not only of Florida’s agriculture industry, but of overseeing laws passed on gas pumps, rollercoasters, school lunches, state fairs and water supply.
The candidates, Democrat Nikki Freid and Republican Matt Caldwell, come from very different backgrounds and are likely to lead the office in vastly different directions.
Freid is a South Florida attorney and lobbyist. Among her priorities, as listed on her website, includes expanded patient access to medical marijuana, the implementation of new procedures and safeguards in the Concealed Weapon Permits department, and the growth of industrial hemp by Florida farmers.
She said she also plans to lead the administration in an eco-friendly manner, working with local government to reduce the state’s carbon footprint.
“I believe in science. I believe that sea-level rise caused by climate change is already hurting Florida,” she said in a phone interview. “This position is vital to the direction that our state will go in. We need to prioritize clean beaches, clean water and clean air.”
“The status quo is not working for the state of Florida. My opponent is the status quo. I bring in new energy, new ideas and a new perspective to this position.” said Freid.
Caldwell did not return requests for comment.
However, on his website, he describes himself as a seventh-generation Floridian and real estate appraiser. He lists his priories as including passing of legislature that protects the Everglades, expanding Florida’s vocational skills training for students, and the expansion of agricultural opportunities in hemp.
Caldwell says he plans to focus the administration on protecting Florida farmers and local agriculture from lower-quality, cheaper food imports from foreign countries.
“Mexican growers flood the state with their crop and the impacts to Florida farmers is an inability to compete with currency manipulation, price gouging, and lower labor costs,” Caldwell states on his website.