Recently, the Miami Herald hosted the 2019 Florida Priorities Summit that focused on issues affecting all Floridians – the economy, education, the environment, health care and transportation. The day-long conference of speakers and panel discussions brought together some of Florida's top leaders and decision makers. Oh, and Big Sugar.
Moderated by Michael Grunwald, journalist and author of The Swamp, the group convened to discuss the number one issue described by the 50 top thought leaders in the state – our environment – and included Miami Beach Mayor Dan Gelber, Eric Eikenberg of the Everglades Foundation, and Julie Wraithmell of Audubon Florida.
Joining these environmental leaders was Gaston Cantens of Florida Crystals, representing the Sugar Cane League. Weird, right?! Turns out, the Sugar Cane League was a sponsor of the event.
It was hard to watch at times, as hypocrisy and audacity collided. Gaston carried on about the “great strides the sugar industry has made in technology and pollution control,” and how “clean and sustainable” their operations are as if they aren’t even part of the problem and have no idea what all the fuss is about.
We had to laugh when we heard him say, “You know, we’re not Old MacDonald's farm anymore.” Well, that's for sure. I don’t recall the nursery song containing a line about a subsidy-E-I-E-I-O or a price support-E-I-E-I-O.
Gaston touted their progress on limiting pollution. Did they do that on their own, as good stewards of the land? Not a chance, it was mandated by a federal court and roughly 91% has been paid for by you and me, the taxpayers. To the tune of $4 billion. Four. Billion. Dollars. E-I-E-I-O!
He goes on to claim Florida Crystals and US Sugar have nothing to do with the pollution in Lake Okeechobee or its discharges. Do we laugh, or do we cry?
Next came Gaston’s attempt at sugarsplainin' water storage NORTH of the lake.
The boys of sugar are physically blocking the flow of water south to the Everglades (yes, Gaston, we see how big you are on the map, all 500,000 acres of you). They force-hold all that water in Lake O in case they need it, requiring it to be dumped to both coasts of Florida when they don’t.
So, they simply adore the idea of injecting that polluted water into the aquifer north of the lake. Out of sight. Out of mind. E-I-E-I-O.
Florida's economic and ecological survival relies on lots and lots of clean water and Big Sugar's political survival relies on getting as much dirty water out of sight and out of mind. Injecting trillions of gallons of agricultural runoff into the aquifer and hoping enough of it will be available when South Florida needs it in the dry season isn't just a disastrous idea, it's a strawman distraction.
Hundreds of millions of dollars’ worth of ASR wells north of the lake are a Big Sugar Shuffle, shifting filthy water from one place to another, moving us further away from solving the problem, delaying real solutions and forcing the taxpayers to, once again, pay for it.
Since Ol' MacDonald was a young lad, Florida Crystals and US Sugar have obstructed every attempt to send clean and plentiful freshwater south because that direction – south – hammers home the obvious. Big Sugar's 800-square miles of publicly subsidized sugarcane geographically starves the Everglades and vital, national estuaries of the freshwater they need to survive.
Big Sugar isn't part of the problem. They are the problem – the gigantic corporate elephant in the Everglades, drinking it dry.
Try again, Gaston, the water is going the wrong way and the peanut gallery isn't buying your spin.
For the rest of you, stick with us!
Ol’ Big Sugar, they have a subsidy.
And with this subsidy, they buy politicians.
With fake news here. And fake groups there.
Here a lobbyist, there a lobbyist, everywhere another lobbyist.
Ol’ Big Sugar, they have a subsidy.
* The role of the “subsidy” providers played by the taxpayers.
Reform for one of the nation’s most despicable corporate welfare programs is back on the table. Now is a good time for Floridians to get educated on the dark world in which the sugar industry works – especially the Fanjuls of Florida Crystals, who benefit the most from the lion’s share of a $4 billion annual handout.
We will continue to shine a big bright light on the legalized corruption that lives inside BOTH political parties until clean freshwater is moving SOUTH to the Everglades, where it belongs.
“Business and the environment are not at odds. They are totally linked and industry is crazy not to embrace steps to promote a clean environment.
Investments we make now to restore and protect our environment have a huge long-term positive return.” – Bill Yeargin, CEO of Correct Craft Boats headquartered in Orlando
Calusa Waterkeeper John Cassani: “This airborne stuff is all new ground. People think, 'Well, if I just don't get in the water, I'll be fine,' but this is a bigger realm now – it’s the air you breathe."
State Rep. Anna Eskamani is the bomb! Everyone should follow her example and fire off a quick note to the Suwanee River Water Management District telling them to deny Nestles' permit request.
Here's their website: http://www.mysuwanneeriver.com/134/Current-Board-Members
Bad for the environment. Worse for humans. Subsidized by the American taxpayer.
"Kina Phillips, 44, a mother of three from South Bay whose husband works for one of the local sugar companies, says it’s time for locals to 'step up and stop turning a blind eye' to a powerful industry that is poisoning her community."
Anyone leery that change has arrived should read this Thanksgiving message from Col. Andrew Kelly. With pressure from Governor Ron DeSantis and persistent and unapologetic work from Congressman Brian Mast, the Army Corps did something they’ve never done before: They bucked the political whims of Big Sugar.
The problems that plague our waterways and are killing the Everglades won't be solved with the flip of a switch, but this is what progress looks like. For that, all Floridians should be thankful.
"It's incumbent on us to make sure the next generation does not have as much of a burden." –Chauncey Goss, Chairman of SFWMD
"I'm hoping this is a permanently changed mindset where the public really voices how they value the environment and passes that on.” –Dr. Mike Parsons, FGCU
“These birds are giving us a signal. What they're revealing to us is that the problems that we already know are a problem, are not going away. They're only getting worse.” – Zoologist Ken Meyer, director of the Avian Research and Conservation Institute in Gainesville
Politicians have allowed Big Sugar to commandeer the water for the Everglades. Meanwhile, politicians are considering allowing this to continue in North Florida. Just NO.
Nope. Nope. Hmmm mmmm. No. No. No. No. Hell No! No.