The Tampa Bay Times published a devastating new story on yet another scandal for former Republican primary frontrunner Adam Putnam. According to the Times, on multiple occasions Putnam’s Department of Agriculture looked the other way or gave slaps on the wrist to companies that donated to Putnam’s campaigns after they poisoned workers with pesticides. One of the poisoning instances was called “one of the worst pesticide exposure cases in more than a decade.” The pesticide came from a plane hired by Duda Farms, one of Putnam’s largest donors. According to the Times, a day after the poisoning, Duda wrote Putnam a check. Putnam’s office gave a small fine to the pilot, not the company that bankrolled Putnam’s campaigns.
“The culture of corruption coming from Putnam’s office is stunning and could have gotten people killed,” said American Bridge spokesperson Zach Hudson. “Workers were poisoned, but because the company that poisoned them bankrolled Putnam’s twenty year plan to become Governor they were either let off the hook or given slaps on the wrist. While his campaign for Governor will likely end in two weeks, Florida cannot afford another five months of Putnam running the Department of Agriculture. He should resign.”
Tampa Bay Times: How Adam Putnam turned his agriculture roots into a political machine
By Steve Contorno | August 16, 2018
- “The Florida Agriculture Hall of Fame is an exclusive club of the state’s most influential farmers. It includes visionaries and titans of industry. Dudley Putnam is in it. So is Ben Hill Griffin. Multiple generations of the powerful Duda family are in there, too. Adam Putnam named three — Edward, Ferdinand S., and Joseph Duda — to the Hall of Fame on Oct. 10, 2014.”
- “Six days later, there was an accident at Duda’s Belle Glade farm. On the morning of Oct. 16, 2014, Maria Garcia was working in a celery field when she noticed a small yellow plane spraying pesticides in the next field over. A breeze blew toward her and 50 coworkers. She took in a strong odor. Her eyes itched and her head hurt. She vomited.”
- “Garcia and a dozen others were taken to the hospital with symptoms of pesticide exposure. Half remained sick for weeks, according to a Florida Department of Health investigation, according to records obtained from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.”
- “The Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services investigated. It concluded there were no violations by the farm. Instead, the agency fined the pilot $1,800. The Duda family and their business have become one of the largest donors to Putnam’s campaign for governor, contributing $187,000 since the pesticide accident. The first $3,000 came on Oct. 17, 2014 — the day after the accident.”
- “Farm worker advocates said the Duda accident was one of the worst pesticide exposure cases in more than a decade. In its own investigation, the Florida Department of Health said it was possible more workers were harmed but they were afraid to step forward.”
- “There are at least two other instances of farms donating to Putnam’s 2014 re-election campaign for agriculture commissioner while his department investigated illegal pesticide use, according to a Tampa Bay Times review of campaign finance reports, state and federal records and published news reports.”
- “In 2013, Putnam’s agency investigated allegations that pesticide exposure at Costa Farms caused a worker to get sick…The Department found Costa violated a state law that requires workers to be trained in handling pesticides…But on the more serious charge that Costa’s lax pesticide protocols made an employee sick, the findings were inconclusive. The state determined the wind that day would have blown pesticides away from the field where she was working.”
- “Ben Hill Griffin IV, president of Ben Hill Griffin Inc., and the company donated $1,000 to Putnam’s 2014 campaign, including a $500 check donated Aug. 20, 2013. A day later, Ben Hill Griffin Inc., received a letter from the Department of Agriculture that the company twice violated pesticide laws that year, the Palm Beach Post reported at the time, killing thousands of bees. It was the first time the department blamed a farm’s pesticide use for killing bees.”
- “The beekeeper Randall Foti estimated the damage at more than $240,000, he told the newspaper. The fine? $1,500. State law allows a maximum fine of $10,000 for violating pesticide application laws. ‘Every four days, they were spraying seven or eight different types of chemicals,’ Foti said in 2013. “A $1,500 fine is not much of a deterrent.'”
Read the full story here.