TAMARA LUSH, Associated Press

TAMPA, Fla. (AP) — Starting the day with an impromptu square dance and a crack of a bullwhip, Gov. Rick Scott celebrated the opening day of the Florida State Fair and held a cabinet meeting at the fairgrounds Thursday morning.

It’s the first time the Florida Cabinet has held its meeting at the State Fair in Hillsborough County. Scott and other officials said they wanted to highlight Florida’s farm heritage and success, noting that agriculture is a $100 billion industry for the state and employs tens of thousands of people. The state’s citrus industry alone brings $9 billion to the state.

“We have got to do everything we can to support agriculture in our state so we can grow jobs,” Scott said.

Little crucial business was conducted during the hour-long cabinet meeting — mostly resolutions, a mining lease and recognition of a football player’s wife appearing on the next episode of ‘Survivor.’ But Scott and the rest of the cabinet toured the fairgrounds and met with farmers, exhibitors and kids. He danced a jig with a woman in period costume in the “Cracker Country” exhibit, which is a living museum celebrating Florida’s rural past. Scott also tried his hand at whip-cracking.

Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam, Chief Financial Officer Jeff Atwater and Attorney General Pam Bondi are the other members of the Florida Cabinet. The trio flipped the switch to turn the lights of the midway on at 6:30 a.m.

Afterward, they attended a breakfast with leaders of the agriculture industry.

Scott, dressed in a blue shirt, grey jeans and cowboy boots, walked through a pavilion where kids showed their prize steer, bunnies and chickens. He also tasted some fresh-squeezed juice.

The notoriously-health conscious governor also gave in to the less-nutritious temptations of the fair: as the cabinet meeting started, he tore into a piece of fried dough.

Scott later announced a $45 million expansion at the Port of Tampa that he said will create jobs and allow Florida to be competitive in a global economy.


Follow Tamara Lush on Twitter at http://twitter.com/tamaralush

Copyright 2012 The Associated Press.


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