Title: Commissioner Bronson Message to Students (2003)
Hello. My name is Charlie Bronson, and I am Commissioner of Agriculture for the State of Florida.
I’m happy to have the opportunity to speak to you today about the job of commissioner, and about the importance of agriculture to our state.
I work in The Capitol building in Tallahassee. This is where the Governor, the Florida House of Representatives, the Florida Senate, and other officials of Florida state government are located.
Although my office is in Tallahassee, my duties as Commissioner of Agriculture take me all over the State of Florida, and sometimes to other states, Washington, D.C., and even other countries.
As Commissioner of Agriculture, I am head of the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services. More than 3,700 people work in our department. They administer many different programs that regulate and promote agriculture, and protect consumers.
Agriculture is very important to Florida. Many people are surprised to learn that agriculture is Florida’s second-largest industry, generating billions of dollars annually and providing jobs and economic stability for our state. In fact, the overall economic impact of Florida agriculture is estimated at more than $50 billion dollars.
Florida farmers produce all sorts of food. Some states produce just a few crops, but Florida produces more than 280 different kinds. You already know about citrus -- like oranges, tangerines and grapefruit. Florida is famous for citrus, but that’s just the beginning. Florida produces almost everything you can think of.
Florida grows all sorts of fruits and vegetables -- like tomatoes, sweet corn, snap beans, cucumbers, celery, potatoes, peppers, strawberries, watermelons and many more. We also grow tropical fruits, like mangoes, papayas, carambolas and lychees.
Agriculture also includes livestock like cattle, pigs, chickens and horses; lumber and other products made from trees; horticultural products such as ferns and houseplants; seafood that is caught off our Gulf and Atlantic coasts; fish and shellfish that are raised on aquaculture farms; milk and other dairy products; and a whole host of other crops.
Florida is the Unites States’ ninth agricultural state overall. The many foods produced by our state’s farmers are enjoyed by consumers across the country and around the world.
Part of my job is making sure the food we produce in Florida is safe. The Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services has inspectors who check grocery stores, processing facilities and packing plants. We have scientists who check food for impurities and proper labeling of ingredients. We have enforcement personnel who check trucks to make sure they aren’t transporting unsafe food, or bringing plant or animal diseases into Florida that could hurt our crops.
So, how did my life’s path lead me to the job of Commissioner of Agriculture?
Well, I was born in Kissimmee, and my family has been in agriculture for five generations. My ancestors came to the New World in 1635, just 15 years after the Pilgrims landed at Plymouth Rock. Some time later they began taking care of the first cattle brought to Florida. My great-great grandfather settled in Florida in the mid-1830s, and the Levy County town of Bronson is named for him.
I attended Osceola County schools and graduated from Oscaola High School in 1968, where I participated in football and track. I then went to Abraham Baldwin Agricultural College in Tifton, Georgia, where I received an agricultural science degree. I later went on to receive a bachelor’s degree from the University of Georgia, with major studies in agriculture education and animal sciences, and minors in engineering and meat sciences.
I taught vocational agriculture and worked in the fertilizer, chemical, feed and nutrition industries.
Before becoming Commissioner of Agriculture in 2001, I was in the Florida Legislature. As a State Senator, I represented parts of Osceola and Brevard counties, an area of diverse interests which includes rural farming areas, coastal condominiums, environmentally sensitive areas, tourist-related industries, and high-tech aerospace industries.
All through my life, I worked toward my goal of becoming Commissioner of Agriculture. From the earliest days when I was a young boy working on our family ranch, I envisioned myself as being Commissioner of Agriculture one day. It’s not often that you get to realize your childhood dream. But I’m thankful for that every day, and work hard to live up to the responsibility. It’s a job that I truly love.
Knowledge and education are keys to reaching your goals. My education was very important to me. While I was always interested in agriculture -- and that’s the field I chose to study -- you may not yet know what field interests you the most. I urge you to learn as much as you can about as many topics as you can. Don’t limit yourself. That way, you’ll have a better understanding about the many different fields of study and different kinds of careers. Then, when you find something you really enjoy, you can set your goals.
I encourage everyone to study hard, listen to and respect your teachers, do more that what’s asked of you, and always -- always -- believe in yourself. After all, you are the one who will make it happen.
Thanks, and good luck to everyone.