Dinner of Distinction award recipient, Rep. Jake Raburn


Supporting UF/IFAS innovation and research through legislative leadership

HILLSBOROUGH COUNTY Representative Jake Raburn has now earned what I call the “grand slam” of legislator-of-the-year awards from the agriculture community. Last year, the Florida Farm Bureau and Florida Fruit & Vegetable Association named him their top lawmaker. The Florida Forestry Association did so this year.

The University of Florida’s Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences completed the slam in September. I had the privilege of presenting him with the award at our Dinner of Distinction in late September.

Our legislative affairs director talked about the time Rep. Raburn, then vice chairman of the Education Appropriations Subcommittee, stayed late into the night in his chairman’s office at budget decision time, waiting for his opportunity.

“I wanted to be in the room so I could support IFAS,” Raburn says. We got the funding we needed that year in part thanks to him.

Where Raburn really shines, however, is in his effectiveness in communicating farming’s value to his colleagues. His strategy for getting what he wants in Tallahassee is to only ask for what he needs most.

“With so many causes competing for resources, you have to speak with a clear voice,” Raburn told us at UF/IFAS. “You’ve got to pick the things that are really important to you. The last few years I have really focused on IFAS funding.”

This year, he continued his tireless work on behalf of agriculture in helping us secure the state investment that will allow us to hire dozens of new researchers. Now we can do more to fight citrus greening, get a better handle on the successive waves of pests that come into the state, and breed new tropical fruits and vegetables. The funding increase will also allow us to bring on Extension water specialists who will help the state’s growers to more efficiently use water and protect our natural resources.

I’ve long argued that because IFAS is the research and innovation arm of what is now a $148 billion-a-year industry in Florida, investment in UF/IFAS is a booster shot for the economy. Raburn agrees.

“I understand IFAS. I understand the importance of what they do for the industry and the economy of Florida,” Rayburn says. The family business he works for is a beneficiary of IFAS research on strawberries and other commodities, for example.

Most members in Tallahassee are from cities distant from the fields and ranches. They work in healthcare, real estate, insurance, law, small business, construction. They’re not exposed to agriculture consistently.

“What I helped them understand is that especially when we’ve seen economic downturns, agriculture is always one of the pillars of our economy,” Raburn states. While tourism and construction suffered through the recession, agriculture was steady.

Rep. Raburn developed his appreciation for agriculture because he grew up in it. When it was time to leave home, he told the audience at our Dinner of Distinction, UF was the only school he applied to. He enrolled in our College of Agricultural and Life Sciences. He graduated with a degree in Agricultural Education and Communication and a minor in Food and Resource Economics.

Raburn not only has a mastery of agricultural issues, but he’s become an eloquent spokesman for all of agriculture. Raburn is among the best leaders the state Legislature has to offer.

IN THE PHOTO: Roman Mmanda Fortunatus conducts research activities in a laboratory at the UF/IFAS Food Science and Human Nutrition building on the UF main campus in Gainesville.

CREDITS

article by JACK PAYNE
UF/IFAS photo by Tyler L. Jones

ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Jack Payne is the University of Florida’s senior vice president for agriculture and natural resources and leader of the Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences. Email: jackpayne@ufl.edu Follow: @JackPayneIFAS