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Columns

Senate Bill 10 a Direct Threat to American Farmers

February 16, 2017 - 1:00pm

Farming has been my family’s business for many generations.  My family began tilling the land in what is now Glades County back in 1918.  For nearly 100 years we survived every type of disaster God and Mother Nature could throw at us -- hurricanes, the Great Depression, and family deaths. But now, in 2017, our family’s heritage and our way of life faces extinction.

 The reason? Senate President Joe Negron’s plan to buy 60,000 acres of productive farmland in the Glades.  President Negron’s plan puts communities and farmland in a perilous situation.
 
Recognizing these concerns, I traveled to Tallahassee recently to voice my concerns and watch the Senate Environmental Preservation and Conservation debate Senate Bill 10. Sadly, the bill was approved at its first committee stop. But the fight is far from over.
 
I proudly stand with members of the Glades communities who are organizing in opposition of SB 10. This bill will spend $3 billion to $4 billion or more of taxpayers’ hard-earned dollars on a plan that science shows will not even begin to halt discharges from Lake Okeechobee.
 
Under SB 10, the state would be authorized to negotiate the purchase of 60,000 acres of farmland in the Everglades Agricultural Area (EAA). According to the Sugarcane Growers Cooperative of Florida, there would be an estimated 1,000 jobs lost and another sugar mill would be forced to close its doors. If this land purchase falls through, SB 10 requires a second option of buying the vast majority of U.S. Sugar’s land in the EAA, resulting in the annihilation of the communities around the lake.
 
American jobs in sugarcane farming are increasingly threatened by competition from overseas. SB 10 would virtually guarantee that these jobs would be replaced by farmers in sugarcane-producing countries like Brazil, India, and China. At a time when America is in an economic battle against foreign competition on all fronts, we cannot afford to give up even one inch of our country’s share of farming to overseas markets. We should be bolstering our safe, affordable domestic food supply, not creating more instability and debt through ill-advised land buys.
 
At Frierson Farms, we are fighting for our survival because our farm is not for sale. The focus of solving Lake Okeechobee discharges should be based on sound science and not on false science.  Why not stick to the current Everglades restoration plans already in place? The Comprehensive Everglades Restoration Plan (CERP) and the Central Everglades Planning Project (CEPP) use a timeframe to allow projects to come online in the proper sequence while further evaluating future projects. Giving in to environmentalist elitism seeks to do more harm to the economy than to help the environment, and through their plan, there will be no real solution to curbing Lake Okeechobee discharges into the coastal estuaries any time soon.
 
The slogan of “buy the land and send the water south” is a sham that doesn’t solve any of the problems facing the Treasure Coast and Southwest Florida. How will more land south of Lake Okeechobee clean and store the excess water that is draining north of the lake? It makes no sense.
 
Being a generational farmer in Glades County, losing my farm would be devastating to my family’s legacy -- something there is no recovery from. I urge our local leaders to think about their local farmers who not only feed America, but also provide a foundation for a stable economy.
 
Ardis Hammock is a family member of Frierson Farms, Inc., a third-generation farm, founded in 1918. She lives in the Glades County city of Moore Haven.


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Comments

This may not be the best plan, but what can we change to make the situation better? I lived in Martin County. My beach was closed. Green slime covered everything. The river stank like death on a cracker. This is all manmade destruction and can be fixed by men if they’d just listen to the planet. Have some fucking respect and stop poisoning the planet and everyone on it OR find another way to make a living.

If they fix and finish the dike sooner we wouldn't have this problem why not spend the millions of dollars on finishing it. Don't start complaining when your taxes sky rocket to be able to afford this bill. Don't forget the other millions on all the other expenses try reading the bill first.

Where's trump when you need him... I thought he was going to keep jobs here in the US, this will only take jobs away from us.

What about the jobs on the coast that are suffering in far greater numbers than the farmers who farm a artificially inflated product in the 60,000 acres? Your argument is insufficient and ridiculous.

There has to be a different solution to save the farmers.

Chanting "Buy the land" like a bunch of mindless zombies does not make the plan the RIGHT PLAN. Has anyone seen where this plan comes from? What a mess. I hope they totally refine or scrap Negron's plan.

Thank you for common sense

Right on the money. "Buy the land and send it south" is a HUGE SHAM.

Thank you

It is a direct threat to common sense as well. The farmers don't want to participate in this deal and it would cost us thousands of jobs in Florida if SB10 becomes a reality. Sad!

The special interests who want to buy this land have no real plan for it. They just want it. It’s not suitable for a reservoir. It’s in the wrong location and would require as much as $2B to build a safe reservoir that would only store 100,000-200,000 acre feet of water. The estuary problem we are trying to solve is on the order of 4.5 MILLION acre feet. Buying the farm land does not solve any significant problems and would consume HUGE financial resources.

http://www.floridiansagainstwaste.org/

SB10 is awful for the farmers and the safety of their jobs! This could put the cost of the U.S. Sugar option well above $2 billion and the Senate's Reservoir plan over $4 billion when you include present day land costs.

We don't need your high priced sugar, if you had to compete in a free market y'all would be bankrupt! Price supports and embargoes on foreign produced sugar should be ended! PROBLEM SOLVED FOR CONSUMERS AND TAXPAYERS!

Thank you

Well anonymous I congratulations on being a 4th generation farmer and having a 5th. You are correct that farmers are always concerned with what is best for the land and our natural resources. We are responsible stewards of the land - had we not been our farm would not be almost 100 years old. In case you missed it 95% of Everglades National Park is receiving water at or less than 10 ppb (parts per billion - 10 blades of grass on a foot ball field) of Phosphorus NOW. That is because we have put our money into research, a self taxing district and solutions. If every Floridian south of Orlando had done as much as farmers in the EAA (Everglades Agricultural Area) we would not have any issues - no septic tanks, not 95% of the water entering Lake O from the North and not run off from urban area exceeding the Everglades requirement. So the next time you pour out a bottle of water just think about how you just broke the law by discharging more phosphorus (anywhere fro 20-40 ppb) than is legal for ENP.

Perhaps you should consider the fact that you are the problem. Irresponsible farming practices are at the heart of why our state and the Everglades are struggling with water issues. To pretend that because it is what we have always done is reason enough to allow it to continue is just ignorant. Why don't you rally your people in an effort to embrace sustainable farming practices that not only allow for responsible farming but also understand that we must protect our water from the runoff of all those chemicals and fertilizers that you continue to use? Your silly little blame game of land owners north of the lake is simply a lie and another tactic to try to impede progress in protecting our water. Big sugar has for far too long been allowed to do as they please and we can see the results of our state embracing every polluter in the guise of job creation. We can create thousands of good paying jobs by expanding our solar capabilities. Now that's good for Florida. I am a fourth generation Florida farm family and our son is the fifth. Stop acting as though you are due some special protections as you use that to continue to pollute this state. Farmers are always concerned with what is best for the land and our natural resources. Being a responsible steward of the land must be every farmer and ranchers top concern. When did you stop caring?

Thank you for that well crafted statement. IF only we had more farmers like you in our beautiful state.

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