A broken political system favors the status quo
The destructive influence of Big Sugar is deeply embedded in both political parties in Tallahassee and Washington, D.C.
Though Floridians have consistently supported legislation to regulate pollution and restore the flow of water south, the enduring political influence of Big Sugar has ensured the status quo remains by funding both parties and positioning their lobbyists to write the rules.
There is no more obvious symbol of the sugar industry's stranglehold on Florida, or its grip on the state Legislature, than the story of the Everglades reservoir plan.
The plan— to buy land south of Lake Okeechobee back from sugar growers to build a reservoir that would let water flow south through the Everglades after decades of misdirection and mismanagement — was devised in 1996 under the administration of then-Gov. Lawton Chiles and passed by Congress in 2000. The sugar lobby initially claimed it supported the plan but then fought the reservoir at almost every step for the next two decades.
They didn't stop with their opposition to the reservoir. For every initiative passed by voters to clean up the Everglades and implement pollution standards, sugar's henchmen in the legislature were there to ensure those initiatives were rendered ineffective or simply not implemented.
We've seen polluters rewarded with profitable lease agreements, billions of dollars in subsidies paid for by Floridians and watched their lobbyists write the laws that are meant to protect our waterways but really benefit Big Sugar. We're seeing the devastating results of decades of bad water management policies on both coasts of Florida and we're seeing the harm that's been done to marine life, our waterways, and even human health.
All of this is accomplished with an incredible amount of money in the form of political donations to both parties. Ahead of Florida's 2018 Gubernatorial election, Big Sugar propped up their favorite candidate and donated more than $9 Million to Adam Putnam in under 3 years. That's just one politician, and just one race. The numbers are staggering.
What we can do
We can save America's Everglades and three nationally-vital coastal estuaries from collapse. We can halt the devastating discharges of polluted water to both coasts of Florida. We can ensure the drinking water supply for 8 million Floridians. We can hand future generations a protected heirloom.
We’ve had the science, the plan, and the money. What we've lacked for decades is political will and action from our elected officials, from both political parties. The stranglehold the sugar industry has held on our waterways and political system can only come to an end when the people have had enough.