Florida governor, Cabinet begin trade mission in Israel

Image 1 of 3

Republican Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis was on his way to Israel Saturday with a delegation of close to 100 people, a trip that will include a ceremonial meeting with the independently elected Cabinet.

The agenda DeSantis' office released ahead of the trip was vague on details, listing items like "business meetings" without saying who he planned to meet with and where. His delegation includes education officials, business leaders, lawmakers and the head of the state's tourism marketing agency. On Wednesday he will host a meeting with the independently elected Cabinet, comprised of Attorney General Ashley Moody, Chief Financial Officer Jimmy Patronis and Agriculture Commissioner Nikki Fried.

Fried was already in the country Saturday for the third day of her own trade mission.

"My meetings are back to back with all type of advancements in agriculture and research," Fried said in a phone interview Saturday. "My brain is going a million miles per hour with ideas and suggestions to bring back to Florida."

So far she has met with Israeli experts on medical marijuana, irrigation, and treating algae blooms. She has also talked with researchers fighting citrus greening, a disease that's devastated orange growers in Florida. On Sunday, she plans to visit a company that works in advanced hydroponics, meet with Israel's minister of agriculture and visit with cannabis growers.

On Wednesday, she will join DeSantis and the other two Cabinet members for a meeting at the U.S. Embassy. The meeting had raised questions about whether it was violating Florida's open government laws because the public has a right to attend Cabinet meetings.

DeSantis and the Cabinet, however, don't plan to conduct state business at the meeting, but rather sign proclamations declaring their support for Israel. Reporters covering the governor's trip were told they will not be allowed to bring laptops or cell phones into the meeting because of security issues. It will be broadcast on The FLORIDA Channel, a state-funded news service that covers state government.

"My understanding is it's gone back to being ceremonial in nature," Fried said of the meeting. "A discussion on the Florida/Israeli relationship and I believe proclamations that are being presented. I believe that is it."

But she added that she hasn't had any briefings from the governor's office about the meeting agenda.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.