Issues

Conservative Principles will guide my leadership as Commissioner of Agriculture & in the Florida Cabinet

A leader is only as great as their principles. I was instilled with conservative values and character from a young age, and I pledge to serve you with those same values, both as Commissioner of Agriculture & Consumer Services and in the Florida Cabinet.

I’ve consistently fought to make government obedient to the Constitution and the people. It’s a long fight, one that requires the right character, judgement, and values — but it’s worth it. Running as a conservative is one thing — leading as a conservative who challenges the status quo is a different story. I learned that firsthand. Even so, during my time serving you in the Florida House, we made serious progress protecting the 2nd amendment, instituting term limits up and down the ballot, and reducing taxes, which kept Florida affordable for our families.

It’s one thing to say you’re conservative. It’s another to be conservative — to lead with the values of hard work, integrity, and family. I promise to defend the values you hold dear…not big government and the status quo.

Jobs, Taxes, & Bureaucracy

Unlike my opponents, I have never voted for a tax increase during my time in office. In fact, we have successfully cut more than $10 billion in taxes and reduced more than 5,200 burdensome regulations during my time serving.

The economy is a top priority for all of us. We all know that jobs are created by innovators and risk takers…NOT the government! I’m committed to removing the burdens that hold us back, so that the free market can create the jobs we need.

The No. 1 obstacle to successful small businesses? Government overreach and interference. I promise to get government out of the way so commerce rules, so businesses can be successful, and so we can thrive!

2nd Amendment Rights

It’s the duty of the Commissioner of Agriculture to ensure concealed weapon permits are overseen by a professional who fully understands and upholds our 2nd Amendment rights guaranteed by the Constitution. As a candidate for Florida’s Commissioner of Agriculture, I am the principled conservative in the race, the only candidate who has consistently received an A rating from the NRA throughout my entire time in office, and have received the endorsement of the National Rifle Association Political Victory Fund (NRA-PVF) and Unified Sportsmen of Florida.

Our 2nd Amendment rights are inalienable. That means all Americans, and all Floridians, need their individual liberties protected. These freedoms were enshrined in the Constitution by our Founding Fathers, specifically because they had a King trying to steal them. Our government has a duty to uphold them!

I was proud to help the State improve the concealed weapon license program by partnering with the Tax Collectors and to expedite applications for active military and veterans.

I will continue the legacy of protecting our 2nd Amendment rights because it’s the right thing to do. You must be able to protect yourself and your family — and I will always fight for your freedom to do so.

Right to Life

Human life begins at conception, and all human life, at every stage of its development, is worthy of protection.

We are lucky enough to live in a place where people have the liberty to fully enjoy the rights given to them by God. Every single person has certain inalienable rights that come from God. This is a principle to which our Founders subscribed and it is just as true today as it was in 1776. Whether expressed as the right to life or the right to self-defense, the right to speak freely or the right to worship as one pleases, these principles are as true today as they were over 200 years ago.

A human being has the God-given right to life as protected by our Constitution. The US Supreme Court got it wrong with Roe v. Wade, and I won’t wavier from that position.

Veterans

Our country has become the great nation it is today thanks to the selfless sacrifice of our veterans.

I’ve had veterans in my family serve in nearly every conflict in America, from Bacon’s Rebellion to the Cold War and Vietnam. I had dozens serve both the Confederacy and the Union. Many were prisoners of war and most served in the bloodiest battles. My 3rd great grandfather, William Martin, was at Appomattox and watched General Lee surrender. Then he walked home to Marion County.

My great-grandfather, Henry Caldwell, served in WWI and was presumed killed in action during the Second Battle of the Marne. His story of survival and return after the war has been an incredible inspiration for my family.

As your Agricultural Commissioner, I promise to ensure the Florida Department of Agriculture will serve and protect our veterans. I will protect your right to own and purchase a firearm, I will ensure you get the services you deserve, and I will fight for your freedoms.

Agriculture Industry

A crucial responsibility of the Commissioner of Agriculture is to oversee this critical foundation of Florida’s economy. Agriculture is the backbone of nearly every county in this state — Florida farmers, and the industries that support them, put food on the table for 20 million Floridians, as well as millions of people across America and the world.

Agriculture in Florida is led by some of the most hardworking people in the nation. Farming is no easy task: floods, diseases, and freezes are just some of the challenges they face. Yet, our farmers face these challenges day in and day out. This attitude of innovation and hard work has allowed Florida to be a world leader in agriculture, and my job is to support these resilient people who make Florida the great state it is today.

Whether it is tackling the tough issues on trade, labor, or managing our precious natural resources, I’ve never backed down from standing up for what is right for Florida.

It will be my honor and duty as Agriculture Commissioner to ensure our farmers’ success. They deserve it — and our state and nation depend on it!

NAFTA, Trade, & Tariffs

Mexico has made a special target of Florida’s row crop growers. With their lower-quality and cheaper produce, Mexican growers flood the state with their crops, forcing family-run farms out of business. This kind of agricultural extortion happens year-round.

The impacts to Florida farmers is an inability to compete with currency manipulation, price gauging, and lower labor costs. Florida farmers are going out of business. Protecting farmland and our homegrown food supply is in our best interest. We don’t want to become dependent on imported food from foreign countries and we must protect local agriculture and homegrown food from American farmers we can trust. At the very least, we must stop tying their hands and forcing them to be unable to compete with foreign competition.

During my eight years in the Florida House of Representatives, I have been a leader on agriculture and natural resources policy. I know the needs of Florida farmers. I have heard the common cry from this pillar of Florida’s economy: Mexico has been a bad partner. With NAFTA, Mexican growers take market share, slash prices, and target Florida farmers to put them out of business. We must fix unfair trade in the new NAFTA deal. If we lose, Florida-grown goods will disappear from supermarket shelves.

Tariffs get at the heart of the question. NAFTA is not actually “free-trade”. The United States is the only actual true free-trade zone. There are no tariffs or quotas between each state; everyone is subject to same set of laws and competes on a level playing field. While states may make more stringent labor, wage, and environmental laws, the national policy is uniform. NAFTA creates a fundamental imbalance with Canada, Mexico & U.S. farmers. The agreement was flawed dating back to the inception and has negatively affected Florida farmers and producers. Canada & Mexico have widely divergent standards for labor, wage, environmental standards, and food safety.There is no equivalence under NAFTA’s rule of law, the U.S. producer has higher costs and quality standards, while the other NAFTA countries cut corners and dump their products into our markets with lower prices. NAFTA is not free-trade or fair trade, it is an outdated agreement that is killing U.S. and Florida jobs

Tariffs are a blunt tool and should not be considered without serious pause. However, Mexico has already been found guilty of actively dumping product in order to destabilize our agriculture industries. And there is no question that the Mexican fresh fruit and vegetable industry has been co-opted by the drug cartels, in order to use the shipping network for drug distribution in the United States. These are serious problems that have made NAFTA an untenable agreement for our partnership with Mexico. In short, the status quo is a failure and must be changed.

It is true that our partnership with Canada is different, because Canada & Florida have a strong, bi-lateral trade relationship. Canadian trade with Florida farmers is strong and will continue even if the U.S. were to withdraw from NAFTA, because farms in Canada and Florida don’t overlap production. For example, carrots and onions are traded with Florida during our summer and rainy season, while Florida farms supply citrus, watermelons, berries, cucumbers, tomatoes, squash and other row crops during our growing season, when Canada is covered in snow.

There are no easy answers, but if we stick to our principles, we will find the best answers.

Water & Environment

Water is our most important resource. It ensures the success of our state and it keeps us alive! As we grow from 20 million to 30 million residents, it’s more important than ever before to balance the demands of growing cities with the needs of our farmers and our environment. The Commissioner of Agriculture must be a responsible steward of our valuable natural resources. I promise to protect, preserve, and sustain our natural resources — because without them, there is no state of Florida!

During my time in the Florida House, water policy was an area where I championed legislation and led the State in pursuing long-term solutions. In 2016, I carried the statewide Water Bill, which laid out policy goals for every region in the State. But that vision cannot be achieved without a true financial commitment. I will lead the State to partner with the districts, counties, and cities to construct and operate regional water supply facilities, including reservoirs, desalination, and re-use facilities. Building regional water supply facilities for urban use will relieve the pressure on the aquifer and surface water supplies, which are more than adequate to meet the need of rural and natural Florida

All of these demands for water in our state are not mutually exclusive. Urban, rural, and natural Florida can only be successful if they work together, not against each other. Residents and urban users require water for their homes and businesses, farmers require a natural resource for production and represent a third of the State’s GDP; and tourists visit Florida’s parks, lakes, rivers, and beaches to enjoy our unique state. Our state government must prioritize our needs, while respecting constitutionally protected property rights.

My experience as the chair of subcommittees and committees related to agriculture and natural resources will be invaluable in the political process out of which these solutions must come. As Commissioner, I will continue this work with farmers, businesses, the Cabinet, Legislature, Congress, and the President towards common-sense solutions on water and natural resource policy, as I have done throughout my career.

Florida Amendment 1 – Water and Land Conservation

“Amendment 1” is the conservation amendment from 2014 that set aside 1/3 of the documentary stamp tax for conservation purposes for a period of 20 years. This money can be spent in four ways: to acquire, manage, improve, and/or restore conservation land. From this revenue, I helped pass landmark legislation that dedicates $200 million annually to the Everglades and $50 million annually to springs. Also in 2017 & 2018, I sponsored a bill providing permanent funding for conservation, particularly conservation and agricultural easements, totaling more than $3 billion over the course of the bill.

Please review the links below for further information from the authors of “Amendment 1”, Florida’s Water and Land Legacy, on how the money can and should be spent:

Financial Impact Statement

Response to Questions from Financial Impact Statement

Amendment 1 – Initial Brief

Everglades & Springs Restoration

As a 7th generation Floridian and an avid sportsman with a deep family background in farming, I have always been a champion of issues that impact our environment and the agriculture community. I sponsored an expansion of the Everglades Forever Act, which will complete Everglades’ restoration in the area south of Lake Okeechobee, as well as Legacy Florida, which will permanently fund restoration of the greater Everglades; and fighting Numeric Nutrient Criteria. The Legacy Florida Bill, HB 989, implements water and land conservation within the Land Acquisition Trust Fund to be appropriated for certain projects such as: Everglades’ restoration, for projects that reduce harmful discharges to the St. Lucie estuary, and the Caloosahatchee estuary. In 2017 & 2018, I championed an overhaul of the vaunted Florida Forever program, refocusing the program on land acquisition with a priority for conservation easements and permanent funding totaling roughly $3 billion dollars over 17 years.

The State of Florida has taken significant steps to address the releases from Lake Okeechobee within the Comprehensive Everglades Restoration Plan and the Legacy Florida Act. I will always advocate for science-based solutions and collaboration that shows real results for Florida’s environment.

Not only do the Everglades, Lake Okeechobee, and natural springs serve as a major source of both drinking water for residents and recreation for tourists-they serve as a natural resource for the production of goods in our state –grown on our land over generations. We must protect and preserve our resources as these areas both feed us, create and sustain jobs in agriculture, fisheries, and manufacturing, but they are also stellar destinations for our tourists. These are some of the most complex political issues our State faces and I have an overwhelming record of facing these challenges head on, negotiating solutions, and gaining near unanimous, bi-partisan support for the resolutions presented.

View Matt’s proven record of fighting for the Everglades

Steadfast Champion of State of Israel

Matt Caldwell is and always has been a steadfast champion of the State of Israel and his record reflects his commitment to supporting Israel and opposing anti-Semitism. No other country in the Middle East grants its citizens the liberty, security, and democratic freedom that Israel does. With its 70-year friendship and alliance with the United States, Israel is key to stability in the region. Matt has consistently supported the sovereignty of Israel and applauded President Trump for fulfilling America’s promise in moving the U.S. Embassy to Jerusalem.

In 2018, as chair of the Government Accountability Committee of the Florida House of Representatives, Matt stewarded HB 545 through the House. The bill prohibits companies that support the Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions (BDS) movement against Israel from obtaining government contracts in the State of Florida.

View Matt’s history of support for Israel