Agricultural Commissioner candidates weigh in on water crisis

Many people have been pointing fingers at Big Sugar for contributing to the Southwest Florida water quality crisis.

Today, the Army Corps of Engineers stopped water releases that come directly from Lake Okeechobee, and now the Caloosahatchee River is only getting water from the Franklin Locks.

The Army Corps says that water is mostly run-off.

WINK News spoke with candidates on both side of the aisle who are hoping to regulate the agriculture industry in Florida.

“We want to bring everybody together to come up with solutions and are pulling in a million in one different directions since we’re being pulled in a million different directions from people that are supposedly experts in the industry,” said Democratic Agricultural Commissioner Candidate Nikki Fried.

Fried and CFO Candidate Jeremy Ring held a round table in North Fort Myers, and promised to buck the status quo by striking deals with stakeholders behind the scenes.

“If you’re a developer, if you’re sugar, if you’re miners, you’re just getting whacked publicly,” Ring said. “And they’re going to push back really hard.”

Fried says it’s the problem solving that her opponent hasn’t mastered.

“We’ve seen a track record that he’s had eight years in the legislature to solve these issues, and to make a change, and he did not do that,” Fried said.

Caldwell says that is totally false.

“There’s no arguing that we’ve accomplished more in the last five years then in the previous 40,” Caldwell said.

Both candidates say it’s time to stop vilifying big agriculture, with Fried wanting to try new solutions.

“I’m somebody who is a forward-thinking individual who looks at technology who looks at experts and want to make sure we have a collective plan moving forward,” she said.

And Caldwell wants to stick with what works.

“I think I’ve got a proven record. I have an actual record on this question. And we have made real significant changes,” he said.

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