WPTV: Water sent through St. Lucie Dam amid flood concerns

WPTV: Written by Andrew Lofholm. May 16, 2018.


On Wednesday, the gates remained open, but water flow was lower than what was released Tuesday. An Army Corps of Engineers spokesman said the gates will open and close based on weather in the area. No lake water is being released. Any decision to release lake water will be well publicized.

Rain runoff in the swelling St. Lucie Canal was being sent eastward through the St. Lucie Lock and Dam at a rate of 1.2 billion gallons of water per day, which would fill 1,800 Olympic-sized swimming pools.

Officials worried about flooding after recent rainfall.

The canal is about 20 miles from the eastern edge of Lake Okeechobee.

Video shot by St. Lucie River Activist Kenny Hinkle Jr., shows four of the seven so-called “gates of hell” open, unleashing problematic fresh water into the St. Lucie River.

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WALL STREET JOURNAL: A Chance for Sugar Welfare Reform

Wall Street Journal: Written by Editorial Board. May 15, 2018.

Cognitive dissonance is common in Washington, but some cases truly are exceptional. One is the ritual of the farm bill, when Republicans who campaign on “free markets” whoop through corporate welfare for agriculture interests. But maybe there’s a stroke of sense coming on sugar subsidies.

Republican Rep. Virginia Foxx of North Carolina is making a run at reforming the U.S. sugar program with an amendment to the farm bill that may hit the House floor as soon as this week. This program is arguably the worst farm subsidy, which is saying something, featuring a menagerie of sweetened loans, restrictions on sales and import quotas for some of America’s richest people.

The point is to keep prices artificially high and enrich large sugar producers, who aren’t paupers but nonetheless demand this help to maintain their station. Many producers live in Florida, which is why Senator Marco Rubio periodically embarrasses himself by supporting sugar welfare.

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TAMPA BAY NEWS: U.S. House should end sweet deal for Big Sugar

Tampa Bay News: Written by the Editorial Board. May 14, 2018.

Longstanding U.S. sugar policy pummels consumers and taxpayers in three ways: We subsidize growers, pay higher food prices and then pay even more for environmental damage sugar production causes in South Florida. The only winners are Big Sugar and the politicians who rake in its campaign cash. With a new farm bill coming up in Congress, now is the time to reset the board on sugar policy to allow market forces to set sugar prices and bring relief to Floridians who are paying dearly for this sweet deal.

An amendment to the new farm bill, the Sugar Policy Modernization Act, would reform price supports that keep domestic sugar prices artificially high. Studies show that American-grown sugar costs up to twice as much as other countries’ sugar. The outdated policy also limits the amount of sugar that can be imported, slaps a tariff on imports that exceed certain quotas and requires the Agriculture Department to buy back excess sugar to prevent prices from plummeting. It’s a formula that guarantees perpetual profits for U.S. growers by pick-pocketing U.S. consumers.

Floridians are robbed even more. The two main growers in Florida, U.S. Sugar and Florida Crystals, are responsible for millions of gallons of phosphorous used on their farms annually running downstream and causing enormous harm to the Everglades. Guess who pays to clean it up. And don’t forget the green algae that befouled beaches on both Florida coasts during the summer of 2016. That polluted water came from Lake Okeechobee and should have filtered south as nature intended — through sugarland. Instead, it was diverted to the east and west, creating a neon green nightmare for tourism-reliant businesses.

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WASHINGTON POST: The problems in the farm bill go way beyond sugar

Washington Post: Written by Editorial Board. May 13, 2018.

WHEN MOST people think of discrimination in the United States, they correctly think of its victims as members of racial minorities, or women, or people with disabilities. The American Sugar Alliance, however, applies the concept more broadly than that, to encompass even large-scale cane growers. Or so it appears from the advertising campaign the lobbying group has just launched, which casts this class of business operators among the marginalized. A full-page ad in last Wednesday’s Wall Street Journal feature d a picture of two Louisiana sugar planters and the words: “Excluding us from loans available to other crops isn’t ‘modest reform,’ it’s discriminatory. Don’t cut sugar farmers out of the Farm Bill. Oppose harmful amendments.”

What’s really going on here? As it does every half-decade or so, the House of Representatives is debating the legislative monstrosity known as the farm bill, a compendium of subsidies for commodity producers whose redeeming feature is that most of it, in dollar terms, supports separate nutritional programs for the poor. (These seemingly unrelated matters get bundled in one bill because of a political bargain between the representatives of urban consumers and rural producers, but that’s another story.) And once again, reformers are targeting the mix of import controls, price targets and other market interventions that essentially try to guarantee profitability for cane growers in the Deep South and sugar-beet producers in the Great Plains.

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THE HILL: House to vote on farm bill with food stamps revamp next week

The Hill: Written by Melanie Zanona. May 10, 2018.

The House will vote on a GOP farm bill next week that would impose tougher work requirements on food stamp recipients.

The revamp of the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), also known as food stamps, is considered a legacy item for Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wis.), who has sought to enact welfare reform as part of his “Better Way” agenda.

The farm bill includes language that would tighten the work requirements for millions of food stamp recipients and shift more federal funding toward job training.

The thinking is that this will help lift people out of poverty and get welfare recipients back on their feet.

But the GOP conference is divided over the changes, with some moderate Republicans worried the requirements are too tough and others worried the changes don’t go far enough.

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NEWS PRESS: Experts: Don't give up on on improving our water, solutions in sight

News Press: Written by Laura Ruane. May 11, 2018.

Healthy watersheds aren’t a pipe dream.

Progress is happening. And it ramps-up when Southwest Floridians work together and work with Tallahassee and Washington to get things done.

Those messages floated throughout The News-Press Media Group’s "Save Our Water" summit Friday at the Hyatt Regency Coconut Point in Bonita Springs.

"It’s the most optimistic I’ve been in a long time,” said Eric Eikenberg, CEO of The Everglades Foundation.

“We’re making progress. … We came out of a crisis and didn’t just say ‘aw, shucks.’”

The News-Press held the first summit in September 2016 after record water releases from Lake Okeechobee down the Caloosahatchee and St. Lucie rivers that led to algal blooms and other problems.

Roughly 400 people attended Friday’s event, which aimed to further educate folks on water quality and conservation, with the help of authoritative speakers from around the region and the state.

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SUN SENTINEL: Help Florida, nation: Reform sugar program

Sun Sentinel: Written by Sun Sentinel Editorial Board. May 10, 2018.

Congress must write a new farm bill this year, so Congress finally can reform the sugar program that enriches a few growers in Florida, but keeps prices artificially high for everyone else.

Today’s program includes price supports, limits on how much each producer can sell and import quotas. A 2016 Congressional Research Service report called it “singular among major agricultural commodity programs.”

Florida and Louisiana dominate the domestic sugarcane market, producing almost 90 percent of the crop. Three-fourths of sugarcane in Florida is grown in Palm Beach County south of Lake Okeechobee, with the rest in neighboring Hendry County. Two companies — West Palm Beach-based Florida Crystals and Clewiston-based U.S. Sugar — dominate production.

Though the government is supposed to operate the sugar program at no cost to taxpayers, that doesn’t always happen. The Department of Agriculture must buy unused sugar — through price support loans — and in 2013 the department lost $280 million.

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NATIONAL REVIEW: U.S. Sugar Policy: A Bitter Pill for Americans

National Review: Written by Virginia Foxx & Grover Norquist. May 11, 2018.

In Washington, D.C., “special interests” are like the weather: Everyone talks about them, but rarely does anyone do something about them. Politicians campaign against special interests and run ads promising to “drain the swamp” and “end corporate welfare.” And yet, again and again, small groups wield great political muscle to win subsidies and special deals for themselves at the expense of taxpayers and consumers in the 50 states. The special interests work Washington like an ATM: We pay; they walk away with the cash.

But every once in a while, the good guys win. The special interests get too greedy. The backroom deals are opened to view. Taxpayers, consumers, and honest dealers in Washington focus on the money grab, and they decide — this time — to do something about it.

One big victory for consumers was won in Great Britain in 1848. (Sadly, we have to go back a long time and look thousands of miles overseas to find a good example.) The Corn Laws of that day limited grain imports, freeing domestic landowners to hike the prices paid by British consumers. Food prices were skyrocketing, manufacturing was suppressed, and the pocketbooks of citizens were being drained as their cost of living became unbearable.

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MIAMI HERALD: Eight months later, Irma is still spreading misery in Keys canals and Florida Bay

Miami Herald: Written by Jenny Staletovich. May 11, 2018.

Eight months after Irma slammed into the Florida Keys, canals choked with debris, damaged mangroves and a hurricane-size mixing of Florida Bay continue to spread water woes across the region.

Only a fraction of the debris in more than 500 canals has been removed as Monroe County officials and federal emergency managers continue to wrestle over the $52.6 million cleanup cost, Sustainability Director Rhonda Haag told the South Florida Water Management District governing board on Thursday during a field hearing in Marathon. Meanwhile, Irma may complicate Florida Bay's recovery from a massive seagrass die-off after damaging wide swaths of the mangroves ringing the bay.

Only 16 canals and about 3,000 cubic yards of debris have been cleared, Haag said, leaving an estimated 97,000 cubic yards of awnings, roofs, downed trees, RVs, broken docks and other debris blocking canals not only for boats but manatees and other marine life.

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SUN SENTINEL: Proposed mega mall near the Everglades a monument to over-the-top development

Sun Sentinel: Written by Andy Reid. May 11, 2018.

Including a tower in plans for America’s largest mall, to be built right here in South Florida, doesn’t make enough of an architectural statement.

Instead, the entire mega mall proposed near the edge of the Everglades should be built in the shape of a giant, extended middle finger.

That’s the real message this enormous retail folly sends. It’s a monument to the notion that we will build whatever we want, wherever we want, no matter the consequences.

Plans call for American Dream Miami to rise from about 175 acres near where I-75 converges with Florida’s Turnpike, just south of the Broward County line.

It was one thing to drain half of the Everglades through the decades to make way for farming and South Florida’s out-of-control development. At least we got food and places to live as a tradeoff for wrecking the River of Grass.

But now we are going to take land that used to be part of the Everglades to build a mall complex big enough for an indoor ski slope. And a waterpark. And a submarine ride.

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