Incoming Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam recently petitioned the State Board of Education to delay considering a ban on sugary drinks in schools, claiming the focus on soda and chocolate milk does not address the broader picture of school nutrition while insisting students will be better served once the Department of Agriculture is given authority under the president’s new child nutrition bill to establish standards for all school food offerings.

ThinkProgress is reporting that Putnam received upwards of $61,000 in campaign contributions from sugar and dairy interests during the 2010 election cycle, including donations from Coca Cola and individuals associated with U.S. Sugar Corporation:

A ThinkProgress investigation has found that the incoming Agriculture Commissioner has been the benefactor of a significant amount of money from both the sugar and dairy lobby during the campaign – both of whom have a strong financial interest in keeping sugary drinks in schools. Despite Florida’s $500 contribution limit for both individuals and PACs, Putnam received at least $61,000 in campaign funds from sugar and dairy interests, including maxed-out contributions from Coca Cola’s lobbyist in Tallahassee Brian Ballard and a slew of maxed out contributions from the Sugar Barons of South Florida, the Fanjul family.

Following his victory on November 2, Putnam also made a wealthy sugar magnate one of his first appointments. Tracy Duda Chapman, Vice President and General Counsel for the corporate megafarm A. Duda & Sons, Inc., was appointed by Putnam as co-chair of his four-member transition team. Chapman is not just heavily invested in the sugar industry herself. She also serves on the leadership of the Florida Land Council trade association alongside the senior vice president of the US Sugar Corporation, Robert Coker, who also maxed out to Putnam.

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