Laying out legislative priorities, Adam Putnam calls on increased funding to protect Florida water

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Commissioner of Agriculture Adam Putnam is asking the House and Senate Appropriations Committees for more money to restore and protect Florida water.

“Water is our state’s most important natural resource,” Commissioner Putnam said. “Not only is it one of Florida’s defining characteristics, but we need a healthy and abundant supply of water to grow and thrive as a state. Therefore, we must work to restore the health and conserve our supply of water – and we must do so with a policy and budget that is flexible, comprehensive and long-term.”

The Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services submitted its Legislative Budget Request today for consideration by the legislature to fund projects in the next Fiscal Year. In a letter, Putnam asked for increased funding for waterways like Lake Okeechobee. Increased funding would go toward water retention and nutrient reduction efforts in not just Okeechobee, but also the St. Lucie River and Caloosahatchee River watersheds. That $15 million program would be the biggest source of funding on Putnam’s ask.

The proposal also asks for $5 million for the Springs Initiative and another$5 million for the Northern Everglades and Estuaries Protection Program. Both of those projects would hopefully increasing agricultural lands that are taking steps to reduce impact on the environment. Putnam is also asking for $1.5 million for agricultural water supply planning and $1.4 million for partnership agreements with water management districts and soil and water conservation districts.

The proposal also includes a request for $25 million in funding for the Rural and Family Lands Protection Program. That program provides funds conservation efforts of easements to protect Florida’s landscape, wildlife habitat and other natural resources, while maintaining private ownership and supporting the local economy.

Putnam is also asking for $16 million to combat citrus greening. It’s an incurable bacterial disease that has spread to every citrus producing county in the state. According to a press release from Putnam’s office, the citrus industry harvested the lowest crop last year in more than three decades. The funding would go to both research and prevention.

Another request for $7 million would be used to upgrade equipment and protective gear for firefighters to help keep them safe while fighting wildfires.

Putnam is up for re-election this November 4. He’s being challenged by Thaddeus “Thad” Hamilton. Hamilton worked for the United States Department of Agriculture Natural Resources Conservation Services for 36 years.

Janelle Irwin has been a professional journalist covering local news and politics in the Tampa Bay area since 2003. She also hosts a weekly political talk show on WMNF Community radio. Janelle formerly served as the sole staff reporter for WMNF News and previously covered news for Patch.com and various local neighborhood newsletters. Her work has been featured in the New York Daily News, Free Speech Radio News and Florida Public Radio and she's been interviewed by radio stations across the nation for her coverage of the 2012 Republican National Convention. Janelle is a diehard news junkie who isn't afraid to take on big names in local politics including Tampa Mayor Bob Buckhorn, the dirty business of trash and recycling in St. Pete and the ongoing Pier debacle. Her work as a reporter and radio host has earned her two WMNF awards including News Volunteer of the Year and Public Affairs Volunteer of the Year. Janelle is also the devoted mother to three brilliant and beautiful daughters who are a constant source of inspiration and occasional blogging fodder. To contact, email janelle@floridapolitics.com.