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Palm Beach Post Editorial: Fried offers fresh direction as Agriculture Commissioner

Nicole “Nikki” Fried isn’t from an Old Florida agriculture family. Wasn’t born and raised in a rural part of the state. Doesn’t campaign in cowboy boots or flaunt a love of guns. She’s not sweet on Big Sugar.

Despite all that — no, because of all that — she’s the best pick for Florida agriculture commissioner in November.

The 40-year-old Fort Lauderdale-based attorney and medical marijuana lobbyist wants to redefine our thinking about the state’s Department of Agriculture and Consumer Affairs. The first woman nominee for the post, Fried would take the overdue step of elevating the “consumer affairs” aspect of the department, which, as she says, “has been completely neglected for 20 years.”

Her Republican opponent in the general election, Matt Caldwell, 37, of North Fort Myers, fits the standard casting for the job: state representative from a seventh-generation Florida family, with an A-plus rating from the NRA. He describes himself as a champion of “our environment and the agricultural community,” while campaigning as a “real conservative” who “cut your taxes and supports President Trump.”

Fried is of a different cut entirely. A former commercial-litigation lawyer and public defender who runs a one-woman lobbying shop, has a penchant for causes including fighting sex-trafficking and injustices in the criminal justice system.

Becoming agriculture commissioner may seem an odd ambition for the Democrat, but there’s more here than crops and cattle. The purview includes ensuring the honesty of gasoline pumps and checking concealed-weapon permits (a duty famously flubbed by current Commissioner Adam Putman). The commissioner also sits on the powerful Florida Cabinet, which doubles as the state’s clemency board.

Fried says she decided to run because she saw firsthand how state lawmakers “failed the people with medical marijuana” — slowing the rollout, limiting eligible medical conditions, barring smokable cannabis.

She doesn’t want the same foot-dragging to hamper recreational marijuana, whenever it becomes legal in Florida. Fried sees legalized marijuana and industrial hemp as potential boons to agriculture, capable of producing $20 billion to $30 billion in annual tax revenue.

Nicole “Nikki” Fried isn’t from an Old Florida agriculture family. Wasn’t born and raised in a rural part of the state. Doesn’t campaign in cowboy boots or flaunt a love of guns. She’s not sweet on Big Sugar.
Despite all that — no, because of all that — she’s the best pick for Florida agriculture commissioner in November.

The 40-year-old Fort Lauderdale-based attorney and medical marijuana lobbyist wants to redefine our thinking about the state’s Department of Agriculture and Consumer Affairs. The first woman nominee for the post, Fried would take the overdue step of elevating the “consumer affairs” aspect of the department, which, as she says, “has been completely neglected for 20 years.”

Her Republican opponent in the general election, Matt Caldwell, 37, of North Fort Myers, fits the standard casting for the job: state representative from a seventh-generation Florida family, with an A-plus rating from the NRA. He describes himself as a champion of “our environment and the agricultural community,” while campaigning as a “real conservative” who “cut your taxes and supports President Trump.”

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Fried is of a different cut entirely. A former commercial-litigation lawyer and public defender who runs a one-woman lobbying shop, has a penchant for causes including fighting sex-trafficking and injustices in the criminal justice system.

Becoming agriculture commissioner may seem an odd ambition for the Democrat, but there’s more here than crops and cattle. The purview includes ensuring the honesty of gasoline pumps and checking concealed-weapon permits (a duty famously flubbed by current Commissioner Adam Putman). The commissioner also sits on the powerful Florida Cabinet, which doubles as the state’s clemency board.

Fried says she decided to run because she saw firsthand how state lawmakers “failed the people with medical marijuana” — slowing the rollout, limiting eligible medical conditions, barring smokable cannabis.

She doesn’t want the same foot-dragging to hamper recreational marijuana, whenever it becomes legal in Florida. Fried sees legalized marijuana and industrial hemp as potential boons to agriculture, capable of producing $20 billion to $30 billion in annual tax revenue.

In other areas, Fried vows to step up inspections of supermarkets, which ebbed under Putnam, and to crack down on fraud and do-not-call violations. On agriculture, she promises to boost small farms and to seek federal dollars to fight the citrus greening that’s decimating orange trees.

Fried brings a bushel of ideas to an office not exactly known for innovation and creativity. The Post endorses her for agriculture commissioner.

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