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Gwen Graham wraps up North Florida farm tour

in Statewide/Top Headlines by

U.S. Rep. Gwen Graham closed out her barnstorming North Florida Farm Tour on Monday with a patented Graham family Workday at Altha’s Crooked Creek Farm in Calhoun County.

The tour took the first-term Democrat from a panel discussion at Florida A&M University in her hometown of Tallahassee, where she unveiled North Florida’s recent inclusion in the USDA’s StrikeForce initiative, through all 14 counties in her sprawling 2nd Congressional District.

The weeklong trip through small farms, feed stores, fisheries, and agricultural research facilities was designed to give voters in the most rural U.S. House district in Florida a chance to inform Graham of their priorities.

“I’m so grateful to all the farmers and farm organizations who helped us highlight North Florida agriculture,” said Graham.

“I saw firsthand how hard North Florida farm families work to provide food for our tables. Their spirit, work ethic and kindness truly represent the North Florida Way,” she said, harking back to her campaign slogan from 2014, when she unseated Panama City Tea Partier-turned-lobbyist Steve Southerland to flip the district back into the “D” column.

Highlights of the tour included a conversation with USDA Deputy Secretary Krysta Harden, who said the StrikeForce program would help fight rural poverty in North Florida’s agriculture belt. 13 of the 14 aforementioned counties are now covered by the federal-local effort.

“I’m incredibly proud of our work to bring the StrikeForce program to North Florida,” Graham said. “The Farm Tour has strengthened my commitment to helping our rural communities — and the work doesn’t stop with the end of the week. I’m going to take the lessons and knowledge I learned back to the House Agriculture Committee and continue fighting for the farmers and rural communities across North Florida.”

The farm tour is in keeping with her reputation as a tireless campaigner. Graham’s political plans for 2016 and beyond remain unknown — her notoriously fickle district is set to evaporate as part of a landmark redistricting case — but she remains sanguine. Graham was reportedly overheard to say over the holidays: “Whatever we run for, we’re going to win.”

Her ascent to Congress was a coup for the first-time candidate. Her father, former U.S. Sen. and Gov. Bob Graham, never lost an election, winning half a dozen Florida posts and nearly becoming Al Gore‘s vice presidential nominee in 2000.

Ryan Ray writes about campaigns and public policy in Tampa Bay and across the state. A contributor to and before that, The Florida Squeeze, he covers the Legislature as a member of the Florida Capitol Press Corps and has worked as a staffer on several campaigns. He can be reached at [email protected]

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