New legislative candidates share farm background

New legislative candidates share farm background

Gainesville, Fla. –When voters look down the list of qualifications of candidates for state office, “farmer” is not typically one they look for.  But that could be changing.  Agriculture continues to be a mainstay of Florida’s economy, adding more than $100 billion in economic impact each year.  Yet the way Florida’s population is distributed means that most candidates for the Florida Legislature come from areas with very little agricultural production.


This year, a new group of able candidates who share the rare qualification of direct experience in agriculture has emerged to compete for seats in the Florida Legislature.   Florida Farm Bureau President John Hoblick sees this as a positive sign.  “I’m excited to see a solid group of qualified candidates that have real-life experience with some of the unique challenges that farmers and ranchers face every day,” Hoblick said.


Candidates with agricultural backgrounds include:


Wilton Simpson, a Pasco County egg producer, is a candidate for Florida Senate District 18. He recently resigned from his duties as Florida Farm Bureau state director to run for public office.

Melanie Peterson, a candidate for the Senate seat in District 17, is a member of the Florida Farm Bureau Young Farmers and Ranchers Leadership Group. She has served as a member of the organization’s state Equine Advisory Committee.

House District 57 candidate Jake Raburn, also a member of the Young Farmers and Ranchers Leadership Group, is a marketing director for his family’s farm in Hillsborough County.

Katie Edwards, a candidate for House District 98 in Broward County, previously held the position of executive director at the Dade County Farm Bureau. 

Halsey Beshears and Robert Hill are both running for House District 7 and each has a strong agricultural background.  Beshears is in the nursery business in Monticello and has been a member of the Jefferson County Farm Bureau Board of Directors.  Hill has been active with the Liberty County Farm Bureau for more than 25 years and has served in various roles in the organization and has served in several capacities in local government.

Hoblick praised all six candidates for their willingness to stand for public office. “These are individuals who have already proven their leadership in various positions in our organization,” he said. “They understand the everyday challenge of making a living in agriculture and would bring that unique and necessary perspective to Tallahassee.


“We are excited to have these outstanding candidates running for our state legislature,” Hoblick added. “I wish them all the best of luck.”