As general counsel for the Florida Farm Bureau Federation, Scottie Butler spent more than 40 years advocating for Florida agriculture. Working on a broad range of legal issues, everything from private property rights to trade to the environment, he always maintained the highest standards of professionalism and ethics and never lost sight of his purpose: to protect Florida’s farmers and ranchers and improve the quality of rural life.
Butler was born in Albany, Georgia, in 1943. When he was a young child, his family moved to Florida, first to Winter Haven and then to Lake Wales, where Butler graduated from high school in 1961. He went on to college at the University of Florida, earning a bachelor’s degree in agricultural economics in 1965 and a law degree in 1969.
After practicing law in Lake Wales for a year, Butler returned to Gainesville in 1970 and signed on with the Florida Farm Bureau Federation (FFBF) to serve as the organization’s first full-time in-house counsel. Over the course of his tenure, he handled a wide variety of legal issues impacting agriculture. He was also responsible for managing the day-to-day operations of the FFBF and its staff of over 50 employees.
Butler is an expert on farm labor issues. For many years he wrote a column called “Labor Lines,” addressing trends in farm labor, for FloridAgriculture, FFBF’s monthly magazine. From 1979 to 1997, he served on the Governor’s Advisory Council on Farm Worker Affairs.
Butler was heavily involved in the national conversation surrounding the passage of the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) in 1993. He testified before Congress and served on the NAFTA Advisory Committee on Private Commercial Dispute Resolutions Regarding Agricultural Goods.
Despite his demanding work schedule, Butler always made time to mentor the next generation of agricultural leaders. He frequently served as a guest lecturer with the University of Florida’s agricultural law program. He also worked closely with FFA, serving on the Florida FFA Foundation Board of Directors from 2002 to 2005. He received an honorary state FFA degree in 2004 and an honorary American FFA degree in 2005.
Butler was instrumental in the establishment of the University of Florida’s Wedgworth Leadership Institute for Agriculture and Natural Resources. Founded in 1991, the institute trains individuals to lead the way on issues that will shape the future of Florida’s agriculture industry. The program offers students insight into the complex issues facing agriculture and provides them with the tools to bring about positive change.
Butler has been a member of the Florida Bar Association, the Alachua County Cattlemen’s Association, and the National Council of Agriculture Employers. He is a founding member of the American Farm Bureau Federation General Counsel Advisory Committee and serves on the U.S. EPA Gulf of Mexico Program Citizens’ Advisory Committee. He was assistant secretary-treasurer for the Florida Farm Bureau Federation Board of Directors from 1976 to 2008. The Florida Farm Bureau recently presented Butler with the Pat Cockrell Lifetime Achievement Award.
Scottie Butler and his wife, Sue, live in Gainesville and have a daughter, Jennifer.