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A controversial proposal: will key lime get to keep its title as the state pie?

tiny key lime pie in a cupcake wrapper
Patrick Sternad
WFSU Public Media
Key lime tarts are just one of the many delicacies for sale at the Au Peche Mignon bakery in Tallahassee, Fla. There is concern that the new bill would challenge key lime's status.

Florida’s official state pie is key lime. Now, there’s a move in the Legislature to designate strawberry shortcake as the official state dessert.

“This is the sweetest bill you're going to hear all session,” Rep. Lawrence McClure, R-Plant City, told a House panel. “I'm not trying to take the key limelight away from the state pie.”

McClure wants key lime to keep its title as the state pie. He’s simply proposing that strawberry shortcake be designated as the state dessert. That’s a title that is not without controversy.

“I have a little concern that this would prioritize it as a state dessert,” said Rep. Erin Grall, R-Vero Beach, “and so willing to still consider the importance of it and loving strawberry shortcake, wondering if you're open to an amendment about making it the state cake as opposed to the state dessert?”

“It feels a little bit like you're wanting to have your cake and eat it too,” McClure retorted as the room erupted in laughter. He later said he would consider making the change.

"Why don't we have anything to sample today to decide if this is a good bill?” wondered Rep. Allison Tant, D-Tallahassee. “Are we going to have it in the members’ lounge for dessert? Because if not, I think you'd better have it ready for the floor vote.”

Rep. Spencer Roach, R-North Fort Myers, doesn’t need samples. He’s all in.

"You may remember that we observed a very important ceremonial award and declaration in our last day of session last year,” Roach said. “I had the distinguished honor of getting the Biggest Gainer Award, meaning that I ate plenty of pie and cake during the last session, and (I’m) just happy as the reigning champion of the Biggest Gainer Award to go on record supporting this bill.”

All joking aside, McClure’s district includes Plant City, a town in Central Florida that is known as the world’s Winter Strawberry Capital.

strawberry shortcake macaroons in a tray as the baker stands behind them
Patrick Sternad
WFSU Public Media
Baker Shanzae holds out a tray of strawberry shortcake macaroons at the Au Peche Mignon bakery in downtown Tallahassee, Fla.

“Florida’s strawberry is our economic driver, almost a billion-dollar economic impact,” McClure said. “We're in really great competition with Mexico. We've had all sorts of disease, labor, and international trade issues. So this bill is really meant to bring some fun attention to what drives our economy back home.”

Plant City is home to 10,000 acres of strawberry fields that produce 75% of America’s winter strawberry crop, according to the Associated Press. Rep. Dan Daley, D-Sunrise, says he recently met with some of those growers and took a tour of their farm.

“It's really amazing and eye-opening, the industry itself and the impact that it has to Florida,” Daley said. “I think we always think of tourism as the first industry in Florida, as has been the case for many years, but (agriculture) is the second largest industry and sometimes it gets overlooked.”

Florida’s strawberry industry is the second-largest producing region in the United States, but it’s got competition, as McClure told the committee.

“We have been in the fight of our lives specifically with Mexico, and to be able to just have a few minutes to laugh about our industry and how our folks make a living is truly meaningful,” McClure said.

The bill received bipartisan support in the House Public Integrity and Elections committee. By the way, the nickname for that committee is PIE.

Gina Jordan is the host of Morning Edition for WFSU News. Gina is a Tallahassee native and graduate of Florida State University. She spent 15 years working in news/talk and country radio in Orlando before becoming a reporter and All Things Considered host for WFSU in 2008. Follow Gina: @hearyourthought on Twitter. Click below for Gina's full bio.