NASA satellite image of multiple sugarcane fires burning near Belle Glade, Florida, acquired January 5, 2021 See the plumes of smoke in the satellite image above? They mark actively burning sugarcane fields, a practice that’s been used for decades at the expense of exposed residents to make harvesting cheaper. The surrounding black squares show an expansive checkerboard of recently burned sugar fields in the Everglades Agricultural Area. Now imagine living in that area where skies regularly fill with dark smoke that causes eyes to sting and chests to tighten almost every day for six or more months of the year. In Glades communities, nestled south of Lake Okeechobee, that’s reality. Sugar companies set fire to cane fields spanning [...]
Next time Gov. Ron DeSantis tries to claim he's not beholden to Florida's powerful sugar industry, don't believe him. DeSantis gave Big Sugar a massive gift April 29 when he signed Senate Bill 88, a measure which effectively indemnifies Big Sugar from legal action related to its harmful impacts, like the class-action suit filed by residents of the Glades communities who argue that sugarcane burning causes long-term health problems. This bill, now law, means only those who live within a half a mile of an agricultural operation can bring a legal case against detrimental impacts like the smoke from the burning fields, which can travel upwards of 20 miles. The old and young are particularly susceptible to respiratory problems caused [...]
Even as we learn more about the detrimental effects of breathing in the smoke and soot from the burning cane fields, it's clear SB 88 represents an invaluable gift to the sugar industry. Today, Friends of the Everglades sent a letter to Gov. DeSantis requesting a veto of SB 88. The bill that would enact sweeping new protections for Florida farmers, shielding them from "nuisance lawsuits," sits on Gov. Desantis' desk right now awaiting his signature. The bill effectively protects “Big Sugar” from legal action related to its harmful impacts, like the class-action suit filed by residents of the Glades communities who argue that sugarcane burning causes long-term health problems. Though smoke from the burning cane fields can travel for [...]
When does the "right to farm" become the "right to harm”? On Tuesday the Florida House of Representatives' Environment, Agriculture & Flooding Subcommittee voted 14-4 to advance HB 1601, which ostensibly seeks to boost agri-tourism and protect farmers from newcomers who want to curtail farm operations. But we believe the effect of the bill will be to disenfranchise the already disenfranchised, like those who live near sugar fields and find themselves hacking and wheezing when smoke from the burning cane wafts in their direction. The bill curtails their ability to sue, requiring they live within 1/2 mile of the farm in question to file a nuisance action. It also raises the burden of proof, limits damages and requires plaintiffs who [...]
Last week, residents and activists from the Glades communities spoke with us about the environmental and health injustices of sugarcane burning. Shocking imagery and compassionate personal testimony helped to paint a picture of the very real threat that looms over communities south of Lake Okeechobee 6-8 months of the year. The take-away was clear: impacted communities deserve immediate and lasting protections. At Friends of the Everglades, we've made a commitment to help shine a light on this flagrant example of environmental inequality and we'd like to ask for your help. Last week, we sent a letter to Agriculture Commissioner Nikki Fried to express our support for the expansion of real protections for communities most impacted by the pre-harvest practice of sugarcane burning, until such [...]
We are grateful to all of you for joining us for our latest Clean Water Conversation: Stop the Burn. Today we covered the environmental and health injustices of sugarcane burning. As our guest Patrick so poignantly emphasized, the history of Everglades restoration is scattered with instances where the reckless pursuit of short term profit was allowed to outweigh that of longterm human health and dignity. This outdated pre-harvest practice is another shocking example of a way that this shortsighted thinking still prevails to this day. Our guests today reminded us of the importance of collectively raising our voices against injustices and lifting up each other's individual experiences, as real human stories are often the most effective tool for fostering change. We can't say enough about the [...]
Almost half a million acres of sugarcane are burned for harvest every year in the fields around the Glades. Thick smoke looms, and ash rains down on houses, cars, and schools in communities south of Florida's Lake Okeechobee most months of the year. Insufficient protections for surrounding communities imposes air pollution, health risks, and economic stress on vulnerable residents — threats that are underscored by the current pandemic. Friends of the Everglades submitted the following letter to Agriculture Commissioner Nikki Fried to express our support for the expansion of real protections for communities most impacted by the pre-harvest practice of sugarcane burning, until such a time that pre-harvest burning is banned entirely. Click here to view the letter in full.