Adam H. Putnam (1974)
Adam Hughes Putnam was born on July 31, 1974, in Bartow, Florida, the son of Sarah Elizabeth and William Dudley Putnam, II. He graduated from Bartow High School where he was active in both FFA and 4-H – participating in leadership development programs and serving as President of both the state 4-H Council and Florida 4-H Foundation. He was also heavily active in the Florida 4-H Legislature program, where he “learned the basics of how government works” which would be invaluable to him in the years ahead.
He attended the University of Florida, majoring in the IFAS Food and Resource Economics program, receiving his B.S. degree in 1995. During his last summer of college, he interned in Washington where he “loved the work and the policy.” It was then that he “determined to embark on a course of action to really make a difference,” starting at home in Florida. A member of the Florida Blue Key, he was named Outstanding Male Graduate of the Year, and was also a member of the Alpha Gamma Rho fraternity, receiving their Grand President Award in 2013, which is given to “outstanding Fraternity alumni, age 40 or younger, who have achieved remarkable success in their professional careers and made great contributions to agriculture and Alpha Gamma Rho.” In 2010, he was the E.T. York Distinguished Lecturer at the University of Florida. He is also a Rotary Club Paul Harris Fellow and has received numerous awards, including the 2014 Outstanding 4-H Alumnus Award, an honorary Doctor of Laws degree and served as a Rodel Fellow at the Aspen Institute.
Putnam met his wife, Melissa, while in college where they both were active in campus activities. She has been a partner throughout his career and together they have four children: Abbie, Libby, Emma and Hughes Putnam.
Adam’s public service career began with serving in the Florida House of Representatives from 1996 to 2000, where he chaired the Agriculture Committee, followed with his election to the United States House of Representatives for five terms – a decade in which his support was crucial to Florida agriculture. Elected in 2000, Putnam was the youngest member of Congress at the time and the youngest ever from Florida. While in Washington, D.C., he distinguished himself as the leading voice for specialty crop agriculture in the nation’s Farm Bill, international trade and food safety. Putnam served as co-chairman of the Congressional Sportsmen’s Caucus; as a member on the Agriculture, Financial Services and Rules Committees; and as chairman of the Subcommittee of the Government Reform and Oversight. After just two terms, he was elected by his peers to be Republican Policy Chairman, and as the Republican Conference Chairman in 2006. During his tenure, he assisted and coordinated virtually every political aspect of the Florida citrus industry’s needs to preserve and protect the industry. His efforts in maintaining international market access for Florida citrus trade helped keep export markets viable, and his leadership in recovery efforts after the hurricanes in 2004 helped get farmers back on their feet.
Following that, he served as the Florida Agriculture Commissioner from 2010 – 2014, where he served in one of four statewide elected positions within the government. He led the nation’s largest state Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services and was responsible for the management of 1.3 million acres of state forests, running the state Energy Office and taking the state’s school nutrition programs under FDACS guidance. This resulted in two major achievements as Commissioner of Agriculture: directing the use of more Florida-grown fruits and vegetables in public-school lunch programs and overseeing the Fresh From Florida campaign, which promotes the sale of state produce. In 2018, Putnam noted on his FB page: “I aimed to introduce “Fresh From Florida” to more plates around the world, and we did. From the trays in Florida’s school cafeterias to restaurants in South Korea, the “Fresh From Florida” brand brings more people the fresh and healthy foods we grow here in the Sunshine State.” In a 2010 In the Field article, he noted : “Americans have been losing their health eating habits. As a result, childhood obesity has tripled in this nation during the past 20 years and it has become a serious public health matter. The USDA spends more than $10 billion a year on programs that provide food to our school children, but foods standards must be revised to reflect modern health benefits of fruit and vegetables,” he said. Among his suggestions in this area was to “shift the responsibility of providing wholesome, locally grown items to our schoolchildren from the Department of Education for whom it is not a top priority to the Department of Agriculture, for whom it is.” And so he did.
As Commissioner of Agriculture, Putnam was a strong advocate for Florida’s water resources. During his tenure he expanded Florida’s best management water practices program, through which farmers voluntarily adopt measures to reduce their water use and minimize the use of nutrients that, in high volumes, can negatively impact the environment. More than 7 million acres of agricultural lands in Florida are now enrolled in the program. That equates to 53 percent of all agricultural lands in the state, saving, on average, 19 million gallons of water daily.
As a result of his leadership in water policies, in 2017 Putnam was the first elected official awarded the U.S. Water Prize from the U.S. Water Alliance. The award celebrates innovative and sustainable approaches to water issues and highlights individuals tackling our nation’s greatest water problems.
In addition to the best management water practices program, Putnam also secured more than 40 conservation easements through the Rural and Family Lands Protection Program. These easements preserved more than 50,000 acres in Florida, land that is critical to wildlife habitat and water quality.
A fifth-generation Floridian who grew up in the citrus industry with a deep understanding of the devotion and passion citrus growers have to the land and what they produce, Adam notes: “My years as commissioner taught me the value of redefining the farmer and rancher narrative in the nonfarm citizen’s mind.” With over 1,000 people a day moving to Florida this is, and will continue to be, an important and continuing narrative of Florida agriculture.
Currently the CEO of Ducks Unlimited, Putnam is only the 6th executive staff leader in the organization’s 82-year history. A lifelong citrus grower and rancher, he is a hunter, angler, conservationist, and third-generation farmer who still finds time to serve on numerous conservation and environmental boards, including the Property and Environment Research Center (PERC), the Fish & Wildlife Foundation of Florida, Alico, and Ag America, to name a few.
Well-known throughout the landscape of agriculture, Putnam’s contribution to the Florida citrus industry and the face of agriculture is far-reaching and still reflective in the state’s programs today. There has been no other Floridian who has done more on so many levels to assist and protect the Florida citrus industry. As one industry leader noted, Adam is “an incredible ambassador for the State of Florida and the citrus industry he loves.”
Florida Representative Dan Raulerson (R-Plant City) once said “I do not like career politicians. I look at Adam as a statesman. Career politicians aspire to be someone. I don’t think he’s done this out of aspiration, I think he did it out of obligation.” And for this, the Florida citrus industry is extremely grateful. Therefore, please join us as we welcome Adam H. Putnam as the newest member of the Florida Citrus Hall of Fame!