For decades, private sugar companies have received enormous government handouts via the U.S. Farm Bill — to the detriment of clean air and water in Florida.  

Through controls on production and strict import limits, the cost of the federal sugar program is shifted to consumers and taxpayers. Windfall profits generated by the sugar industry, led by Florida Crystals and U.S. Sugar, are then used to buy influence over lawmakers.

This unjust, outdated policy enriches billionaire-backed sugar companies at the expense of the iconic, life-sustaining Everglades and nearby communities.

It’s a double-whammy for South Florida taxpayers, who also foot the bill to clean polluted water from sugarcane fields south of Lake Okeechobee. Meanwhile, people who live near those sugarcane fields suffer some of the worst smoke pollution in the country due to pre-harvest cane burning.

Sugar Reform Now

Recent investigative reporting has detailed industry abuses and the toxic algae crisis on Lake Okeechobee that stems from the stranglehold sugar lobbyists have on Florida water policy.

Sugar’s cycle of abuse and pollution has continued for decades. We have a chance to end it in the next Farm Bill.

Every 5 years Congress is supposed to renew the Farm Bill but a temporary one-year extension was granted in 2023, meaning the current Farm Bill will be up for reauthorization in late 2024. We’re calling on Congress to stop subsidizing the environmental and human-rights abuses of Big Sugar by ending the sugar program.

By signing this petition, I’m hereby asking Congress to end the sugar program in the next Farm Bill, in the name of environmental justice and the Everglades.

Join our movement to end to the harm caused by billionaire-backed sugar companies. Sign this petition to tell Congress it’s time to end the outdated, overly generous protections for the sugar industry in the Farm Bill.

Why This Matters

Big Sugar Pollutes Our Air

In Florida’s Everglades Agricultural Area, Big Sugar burns nearly half a million acres of sugarcane for six to eight months of the year, polluting the air in communities of color. Yet when the wind blows toward higher-income, predominantly white communities, sugarcane burning is subject to stricter state regulations. In 2021, the Florida Legislature enacted sweeping new protections for the sugarcane industry with the passage of Senate Bill 88, which protects Big Sugar from legal action related to the harmful practice of sugarcane burning.

Big Sugar Harms Our Water

Lake Okeechobee is held artificially high during the dry season to provide near-perfect irrigation for about 400,000 acres of sugarcane in the Everglades Agricultural Area. During the rainy season, capacity in taxpayer-funded stormwater treatment areas — which are man-made marshes — is prioritized for sugarcane runoff instead of Lake O water. With no other option when lake levels get too high, polluted water from Lake O is dumped east and west to the St. Lucie and Caloosahatchee estuaries and Lake Worth Lagoon, where it fuels toxic-algae blooms that harm businesses, threaten marine life, and imperil human health.

Human Rights Abuses

Furthermore, leaders in the sugar industry have been linked to human rights violations in the Caribbean — specifically indications of forced labor — prompting the U.S. to block sugar imports from the Fanjul family-owned Central Romana plantation in the Dominican Republic. Federal policy in the Farm Bill is enriching those accused of these forced-labor conditions. This is the impact of the sugar program in the Farm Bill: federally subsidized injustice and environmental degradation.