Charles H. Bronson is a fifth-generation Florida cattle rancher and was Florida’s 10th Agriculture Commissioner, serving from 2001 to 2010. As Commissioner, Bronson left a proud legacy. Under his leadership the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services implemented innovative programs to promote Florida agricultural products, protect the state’s natural resources, and safeguard Florida agriculture against pests and diseases. Former Governor Jeb Bush describes Bronson as “an honorable public servant always working for the interests of consumers and Florida’s great agriculture sector.”
Bronson was born in Kissimmee in 1949 and grew up working on his family’s 8,600-acre cattle ranch, C.H. Bronson Ranch in St. Cloud. One of Central Florida’s oldest businesses, the ranch was established in the 1860s and has been in the Bronson family ever since.
Bronson attended Osceola High School, where he was a member of the football and track teams. He earned an associate’s degree from Abraham Baldwin Agricultural College in Tifton, Georgia. At ABAC Bronson was a member of the Rodeo Club and helped organize the school’s first rodeo, an event that has since become an annual tradition. He went on to earn a bachelor’s degree in animal science and agriculture education from the University of Georgia in 1973. At Georgia he was a member of the Alpha Gamma Rho agriculture fraternity and the Block and Bridle Club.
After college Bronson moved to Gainesville, Florida, and got a job at Gainesville High School teaching vocational agriculture. He received his law enforcement certification in 1978 and served as a reserve officer. From 1979 to 1987, he worked for Lakeland Cash Feed in Satellite Beach as a salesman specializing in feed and animal nutrition.
In the late 1980s, Bronson began to get involved in politics. In 1987 he co-chaired the “Agriculture for George H.W. Bush” campaign in Florida. In 1988 he became a Republican Party State Committeeman, representing Brevard County. In 1992 he was elected Republican Party County Chairman for Brevard County. He was elected to the State Senate in 1994 and served until 2001.
In May 2001, Bronson was appointed Commissioner of Agriculture by Governor Jeb Bush. He was elected statewide for a four-year term in 2002 and re-elected in 2006.
Bronson made many accomplishments as Commissioner. During his tenure, the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services (FDACS) promoted Florida agriculture overseas and to northern states through a variety of multi-tiered marketing campaigns. Efforts to open new markets increased sales of Florida products by more than $1 billion.
Bronson helped develop the first comprehensive agriculture water policy in Florida. Designed to assure adequate water resources for Florida farming, it relies on the implementation of Best Management Practices by farmers and the capture and storage of rainwater by the water management districts.
Bronson’s Division of Forestry oversaw one of the most active prescribed fire programs in the country. Prescribed fire is used to reduce hazardous fuel buildups, thereby providing increased protection against wildfires. Prescribed fire is also used to control disease in young pines, improve habitat for wildlife, preserve endangered plant and animal species, and maintain fire-dependent ecosystems.
Bronson fought to protect Florida agriculture against exotic pests and diseases. During his years in office, FDACS developed Best Management Practices and biological control programs to manage the spread of tropical soda apple, a noxious weed that is known to take over pastures, destroying their productivity. Bronson also established a new Level 3 Bio-Safety Laboratory in Kissimmee to expand the department’s ability to diagnose foreign animal diseases.
In 2006 Bronson initiated the “Farm to Fuel” program to position Florida as a leader in the production of alternative energy using crops and woody biomass. Growing this industry enables Florida to reduce its dependence on foreign oil while opening new markets for Florida growers.
Bronson’s many years of service to Florida and to agriculture have earned him a long list of honors. He was presented with the Florida Aquaculture Association’s Outstanding Service Award in 1997, the Florida Farm Bureau’s Legislative Award in 1998, and the Brevard County Farm Bureau’s Distinguished Service Award in 2000. In 2003 he received the Southeastern Fisheries Association’s Good Government Award and the Nature Conservancy’s Leadership Award. In 2010 he received the Florida Fruit and Vegetable Association’s Distinguished Service Award.
In 2010 the Florida Legislature named a new state forest in Bronson’s honor. The Charles H. Bronson State Forest consists of about 10,000 acres located along the St. Johns River in southeastern Seminole County and northeastern Orange County. The dedication was made in recognition of Bronson’s life of public service and his commitment to protecting the natural resources of Florida.
Today Charles Bronson and his wife, Regina, raise timber and perennial peanut hay on a farm in Madison County. They have two grown daughters, Michelle and Melanie.