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Denise Grimsley

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‘Cow cuddling’? Denise Grimsley talks agritourism at Polk Tiger Bay

Who would pay $300 to hug a cow?

Enough people to save the family farm, state Sen. Denise Grimsley told a luncheon of the Polk County Tiger Bay Club on Tuesday.

Agritourism will be a key component of her policies to save Florida agriculture if elected Agriculture Commissioner, the Zolfo Springs Republican said.

“I had a constituent tell me she had some people coming to her ranch and pay $300 to cuddle a cow,” she said when asked by a club member about agritourism.

“I had never heard of that before, but when you think about it, this is part of how you bring prosperity back (to small farms and rural communities). There are people in Miami or Tampa who may never have seen a farm or where their food comes from.”

Grimsley chairs of the Senate Agriculture Committee and sits on Appropriations, chairing the education appropriations subcommittee. Before being elected to the Senate in 2012, she served in the House eight years and was House Appropriations chair her last term there.

In addition to having run the family citrus and ranching business, she is the administrator for two hospitals, Florida Hospital Heartland Medical Center Lake Placid and Florida Hospital Wauchula and helped build a third.

There is also a need for the Florida Department of Agriculture to have urban gardening programs providing food and also education about agriculture for those in cities, Grimsley said, and a mentoring and “young farmer and rancher programs to keep rural kids’ interest in agriculture.

“There is a real digital divide between cities and rural, particularly rural towns may which have vacant storefronts and blocks. I plan to appoint a deputy commissioner for rural issues,’’ she said.

But the Agriculture Commissioner also sits on the Cabinet, which has overall control in several areas. Asked about the restoration of voting rights to convicted criminals who have served their time, Grimsley said nonviolent offenders should have automatic restoration of voting rights upon completion of their sentences.

“I think those convicted of violent crimes must take a longer route. But we have a broken system and a lot involves those leaving being able to have jobs. There is training in prison, but on release, the red tape can keep them waiting.”

Two major issues coming to the Cabinet that must be handled are water and infrastructure.

At the moment, the Republican primary for Agriculture Commissioner would seem to be the race that will decide who will follow Bartow Republican Adam Putnam, who is running for governor.

Grimsley is competing against two Republicans, former Rep. Baxter Troutman of Winter Haven and Rep. Matt Caldwell of Fort Myers. All three have hefty campaign war chests with Troutman leading with $3.2 million, Grimsley with $1.2 million and Caldwell with more than $704,000.

None of the three Democrats running for the post has more than $40,000.

Written By

Former Ledger of Lakeland columnist Bill Rufty is Central Florida political correspondent for SaintPetersBlog and Florida Politics. Rufty had been with the Ledger from 1985-2015, where, as political editor, he covered a wide range of beats, including local and state politics, the Lakeland City Commission, and the Florida Legislature. Ledger editor Lenore Devore said about Rufty’s 30-year career: “[He is] a man full of knowledge, a polling expert and a war history buff … who has a steel trap in his brain, remembering details most of us have long since forgotten.”

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