Last month, more than 50,000 members of the FFA gathered in Indianapolis, Indiana, for the National FFA Convention. There, they learned about career opportunities in agriculture, lent a helping hand to the local community, and elected a Floridian as the next president of the National FFA.
Together with five other national officers, Clay Sapp will spend the next year representing the spirit of the FFA, shaping policies for the organization and traveling throughout the country to engage top leaders in business, government, and education in discussions about agricultural literacy. I’m proud to have a Floridian serving in this capacity and I’m confident Clay will represent our state and its agriculture industry well.
As a former FFA member myself, I know firsthand the lessons of leadership, character building, hard work, and dedication that FFA provides. The projects, many of which are supported by the Central Florida ag community, help members build the skills they need to tackle our industry’s most pressing challenges. These experiences will serve them well no matter what career path they choose to pursue.
My hope, however, is that the members of the Florida FFA do continue to play a role in Florida’s agricultural industry. Agriculture is the strongest pillar of our state’s economy, contributing $100 billion every year. The industry employs nearly one million people in Florida in a wide range of occupations from the research labs to the fields. These hard workers produce nearly 300 commodities, from harvesting oysters in Apalachicola to growing tropical fruits in South Florida and raising cattle everywhere in between.
Not only is Florida agriculture diverse, but it’s also ever changing. The demand for Florida agricultural products is growing and is expected to increase exponentially in the coming decades. Currently, the world’s agricultural producers feed 7 billion people. By 2050, our world population is expected to grow to more than 9 billion people. We must grow more food and grow it more quickly to feed this growing population. Only through innovation and hard work can we do this.
New opportunities for Florida agriculture are also on the horizon. We’re bringing Fresh From Florida products to new markets like Singapore and India. With the expansion of the Panama Canal to accommodate Super Panamax ships, there will be opportunities to reach even more ports with more Florida goods – if Florida’s ports too can grow to accommodate these massive ships.
I’m excited about the future of Florida agriculture and inspired by the hard work and enthusiasm of the future leaders of Florida agriculture. The actions they take today will forever impact the course of agriculture, our state, our nation and our world. Though it is a great responsibility, I’m confident that this responsibility is in the right hands with leaders like Clay Sapp at the helm.
column by COMMISSIONER ADAM H. PUTNAM
BIO: Adam H. Putnam, of Bartow, is a former state representative and U.S. congressman and currently commissioner of the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services.