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Agriculture Commissioner Nikki Fried reflects on what went well and what didn't this session

Nikki Fried wears a red jacket while standing behind a lectern and microphones
The Florida Channel
Nikki Fried spoke with reporters Tuesday about her thoughts on the legislative session.

Florida Agriculture Commissioner Nikki Fried said while her department didn’t get everything it asked for this year, there are several items in the budget worth celebrating.

Lawmakers allocated increased funding for the Florida Forest Service—a bump Fried calls “historic.” She said the recent Panhandle wildfires fueled by Hurricane Michael debris proved more support is needed.

And Fried said there’s more good news for Panhandle residents.

We are finally replacing our Vietnam era aircraft and expanding our fleet, increasing starting pay and funding debris removal and clean up which will be a huge help for folks in Bay County and the Panhandle who are still experiencing the devastation from Hurricane Michael," Fried said.

During a press conference in the cabinet meeting room Tuesday Fried called out Republican leaders for focusing on what she calls “culture war” issues that she said "eroded the freedoms of Floridians.” She said bills on topics such as abortion and limiting lessons on LGBTQ issues at school, took away from time that could have been used for items she feels are more directly linked to quality of life.

“Including affordable housing, skyrocketing rent and property insurance, condo safety reforms after the tragedy at Surfside, healthcare costs and the Medicaid cliff, increased gas prices and the cost of living,” Fried said.

Fried, who is running for governor, is the only state-wide elected Democrat in Florida.