Lawmakers sweet on strawberry shortcake, vote to designate it as state dessert

'The only thing I will ask from this bill is when you go and buy your groceries, look at the label and buy Florida.'

The House fell sweet Friday on legislation designating strawberry shortcake with a dollop of whip cream as the state dessert.

Despite some bitter opposition from the cannoli caucus, the proposal was approved in a 109-4 vote by the lower chamber Friday morning.

Sponsored by Dover Republican Rep. Lawrence McClure (HB 567), it has been dubbed a “berry sweet” bill by proponents. McClure presented the Senate version of the legislation (SB 1006), filed by Sen. Danny Burgess, after it whipped through the Senate with unanimous approval.

Now, it’s on its way to the Governor’s desk. The bill’s ultimate mission is to promote Florida agriculture, especially its strawberry industry.

“Our strawberry industry — and quite frankly our seasonal fruits and vegetables in the state — have been under attack, in a way that if it stays on the same path and the next 10 years, we’ll really have to wonder if we’re going to have domestic food supply here,” McClure said.

McClure hails from Dover. In neighboring Plant City, the strawberry industry is worth about $1 billion, he said. More than 10,000 acres of strawberries are planted annually in the Plant City area, accounting for nearly 75% of the nation’s winter strawberry crop. Plant City, as noted in the bill, is home to the biggest shortcake, per Guinness World Records.

“This bill is just very simply about pushing back on Mexico, pushing back on other folks that are trying to take over our domestic production, engaging in price dropping and other tactics to put us out of business, and to just celebrate Florida agriculture,” he said. “The only thing I will ask from this bill is when you go and buy your groceries, look at the label and buy Florida.”

The bill received praise from a dollop of House members, who applauded McClure for supporting Florida agriculture.

“I have a lot of farmers in my district and we need that protection. They need help,” said Islamorada Republican Rep. Jim Mooney. “A little recognition is not gonna hurt anybody and I’m pretty sure that this bill is not going to change anybody’s opinion of how delicious Key lime pies are.

Despite unanimous approval in the Senate, the bill saw pushback Thursday from the Italian caucus, who tried to promote the inclusion of the cannoli. However, shortcake supporters quipped back, saying “There can-noli be one” state dessert.

The measure also has received consternation from some who pledge allegiance to the Key lime pie, which still retains its title as the state pie.

But perhaps the most contentious part of the bill was the decision to add a dollop of “natural Florida dairy topping” to the proposed state dessert. That specification was made via amendment at its final House committee meeting by Rep. Ralph Massullo, a Lecanto Republican.

However, members on both sides of the aisle had concerns that specifying a dairy topping might be exclusionary.

At that meeting, Orlando Democratic Rep. Carlos Guillermo Smith asked Massullo whether the honorific allows for vegan options. Massullo stressed the amendment was about Florida dairy but left open the possibility that you could construe milk to be vegan if it comes from a grass-fed cow.

Jacksonville Republican Rep. Jason Fischer, when hearing the amendment, noted he is allergic to dairy. Massullo, a physician, said recent studies show people might actually be allergic to a protein in dairy products, not the lactose itself.

Passing the bill has been a sweet treat for lawmakers. Leadership slated it to move through the House Public Integrity and Elections Committee, or PIE, for short.

Kelly Hayes

Kelly Hayes studied journalism and political science at the University of Florida. Kelly was born and raised in Tampa Bay. A recent graduate, she enjoys government and legal reporting. She has experience covering the Florida Legislature as well as local government, and is a proud Alligator alum. You can reach Kelly at [email protected].


Florida Politics is a statewide, new media platform covering campaigns, elections, government, policy, and lobbying in Florida. This platform and all of its content are owned by Extensive Enterprises Media.

Publisher: Peter Schorsch @PeterSchorschFL

Contributors & reporters: Phil Ammann, Roseanne Dunkelberger, A.G. Gancarski, Anne Geggis, Ryan Nicol, Jacob Ogles, Cole Pepper, Gray Rohrer, Jesse Scheckner, Christine Sexton, Drew Wilson, and Mike Wright.

Email: [email protected]
Twitter: @PeterSchorschFL
Phone: (727) 642-3162
Address: 204 37th Avenue North #182
St. Petersburg, Florida 33704

Sign up for Sunburn