Farming in the Everglades Agricultural Area Is Under Attack
Funded by wealthy, out-of-state billionaire hedge fund managers, special interest activists across Florida are attacking Florida’s sugarcane farmers. These attacks distort the truth, cast hard-working farmers as villains, and disrupt the livelihoods of the people of the Glades communities.
Using social media, traditional media and word of mouth at the grassroots level, these environmental extremists spread misinformation, suggesting Florida’s sugarcane farmers are to blame for pollution in Lake Okeechobee, despite factual evidence to the contrary.
The activists regularly blame sugarcane farmers for the Lake Okeechobee releases that are controlled by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.
Their central mission is to persuade the state of Florida and the federal government to buy U.S. Sugar’s farmland in the name of environmental restoration—which would put sugarcane farmers out of business and have a crippling impact on the Everglades Region's economy.
Here are several examples of some of the attacks on farmers and the people of the Glades communities:
Example #1—Posts on BullSugar.org Facebook Page
BullSugar.org is a group that was established to attack sugarcane farmers and urge lawmakers to support buying farmland to store water. Their posts are extreme and have included threats of violence and wishes for harm to the people of the Glades communities.
Example #2—Column by Everglades Trust Executive Director Kimberly Mitchell
In a Naples Daily News column, Kimberly Mitchell, the executive director of the Everglades Trust, falsely accuses sugarcane farmers of accepting subsidies, polluting estuaries, and understating the number of jobs it provides. In the first line of the column, she reveals the true motives of environmental activists when she writes:
"We all pay dearly for Florida's sugar industry. It needs to end."
Example #3—Sierra Club Accuses U.S. Sugar of Creating "Ecological Disaster"
In March 2016, the Sierra Club held a town hall meeting to discuss the ongoing discharges from Lake Okeechobee. In the meeting, a representative from the Sierra Club accused U.S. Sugar of creating an "ecological disaster" in Lake Okeechobee. An NBC 2 news report quoted him as saying:
"Their status quo is killing our ecosystem," said Sierra Club Calusa Group environmentalist John Scott. "They basically have used Lake Okeechobee for decades as their personal agricultural reservoir."
Example #4—User on Sierra Club Listserv Calls for Dike Failure
One of the ways the environmental extremists coordinate their messaging is through a large email listserv. In response to an article that was shared about the Lake Okeechobee discharges, a user pondered the impact of a failure of the Herbert Hoover Dike and the environmental benefits it would provide:
Example #5—Sierra Club Attacks U.S. Sugar Farmers Over Cane Burning
Controlled sugar cane burning is a long-standing and critical farming practice necessary to burn off leaves and prepare sugarcane for harvest. The Sierra Club has attempted to misinform the public by claiming it causes air pollution despite the fact that the Glades communities enjoy some of the best air quality in the state. According to a Palm Beach Post report:
"The Sierra Club contends the burns cause air pollution and adverse health effects. It wants Florida’s 430,000 acres of sugar cane, the majority of it in Palm Beach County, to be ‘green harvested’ without burning."
Join the Fight to Support EAA Farmers and Set the Record Straight
You can help us push back against false attacks and begin setting the record straight by:
Here are some examples of what people who have joined the fight are doing and saying:
Example #1— Dispelling Attacks on Cane Burning made by Sierra Club
- In a September 2015 statewide media conference call Pat Dobbins, former administrator for the Florida Department of Health in Glades and Hendry counties, spoke about the mountains of data that shows Glades communities have some of the best air quality in the state.
- A story in the Palm Beach Post noted:
"Sierra Club’s campaign to stop the burns a baseless attempt to take farmland out of production and destroy rural communities.
" ‘Farmers’ greatest assets are clean air, water and land, and it’s ridiculous and irresponsible to think that we would do anything to jeopardize any of that,’
-Clewiston-based U.S. Sugar Corp. spokeswoman Judy Sanchez
Example #2— Despite false claims of carelessness, U.S. Sugar leaders are committed to finding solutions in reducing Lake Okeechobee discharges
"We agree with scientists and engineers at the South Florida Water Management District, legislative and congressional leaders and even some members of the environmental community who have concluded the best way to provide substantial improvement to the St. Lucie and Caloosahatchee estuaries is to accelerate funding for existing federally authorized projects.
"In addition to our actions, we also want to continue playing a meaningful part in the conversation, which is why we are engaging with newspaper opinion leaders, communicating digitally, and placing newspaper advertisements on the Treasure Coast and in Southwest Florida to provide information about the issues and our company of 2,500 hard-working Floridians."
-Malcolm "Bubba" Wade Jr., U.S. Sugar SVP of Corporate Strategy and Business Development
Example #3— Sierra Club claims that U.S. Sugar is responsible for the "ecological disaster" in Lake Okeechobee
- Water quality data shows 95 percent of the water and pollution comes from the north
- South Florida Water Management District—not U.S. Sugar—controls back pumping in the EAA. This is only done when communities near Lake Okeechobee are in danger of flooding.
Example #4—The Case Against Buying Land, Sending Water South
- May 2016, Gary Ritter, the Florida Farm Bureau Federation’s assistant director of government and community affairs, on why buying the land south of Lake Okeechobee is the wrong approach:
"Simply put, "sending the water south" is a complete distraction. Both the Legislature and Congress have already invested billions of dollars into the Comprehensive Everglades Restoration Plan (CERP), which does not include buying or developing land south of the lake. The next phase of CERP must focus on storing and cleaning the water where it enters Lake Okeechobee."
Example #6—Positive News Stories About EAA Farmers
- Farmers lauded for record phosphorous reduction; EAA program turns 20, Palm Beach Post, August 14, 2015
"For the 20th straight year, farmers in the Everglades Agricultural Area south of Lake Okeechobee have exceeded the phosphorus reduction requirements for water flowing from their farms to the Everglades. This year was record-breaking, with a 79 percent reduction, more than three times the 25 percent mandated by law. Too much phosphorus in the Everglades can cause unwanted plants such as cattails to crowd out native vegetation."
- Sweet solution: Wellington horse manure finds a new home, Palm Beach Post, September 3, 2015
"Hold the spice, just sugar has made everything nice for Wellington’s horse manure disposal—a once-bigger problem in the village. The average horse produces about 50 pounds of manure a day, multiply that by more than 12,000 horses at peak season and the village alone produces about 80,000-100,000 tons a year. That all has to go somewhere. Recently, U.S. Sugar Corp. in Clewiston began taking the bulk of it, but in past years, some rogue haulers undercut their competitors and offered stable owners to take it away for a lower price."
- Flying Kids At Belle Glade Airport Saturday, Southwest Florida Online, January 12, 2016
" ‘The event gave students a great bird’s eye view of the exciting job opportunities in today’s precision agriculture,’ said Judy Sanchez, senior director of corporate communications and public affairs for U.S. Sugar, which provided fresh Florida orange juice and doughnuts for the event. ‘Our hope is that hands-on experiences like these encourage students to get an education in agriculture, then return to the area to pursue a career in farming.’ "