Your recent story “Keys gave reservoir bill big boost, lawmakers say’’ inaccurately described the position of Florida’s sugar industry on the recent legislation for a reservoir south of Lake Okeechobee. Florida sugarcane growers supported final passage of Senate Bill 10.
What farmers and landowners in the Everglades Agricultural Area initially opposed was the unnecessary purchase of 60,000 acres of additional privately owned and productive farmland for the reservoir. In response to strenuous debate over a large land purchase that would devastate jobs and our rural communities, the Legislature drastically improved Senate Bill 10 to plan the reservoir on over 30,000 acres of land already under state ownership and removed the threat of taking private property. With support of agriculture, environmental groups and other stakeholders, Gov. Rick Scott signed the improved legislation into law.
Sugarcane farmers in the Everglades Agricultural Area advocate that Florida does not need to buy more land south of Lake Okeechobee. The South Florida Water Management District and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers already have acquired the land necessary for Everglades restoration projects in our farming region. Many of these projects are already under way, with others currently being planned and engineered. Sugarcane farmers appreciate Gov. Scott and the Florida Legislature for recognizing the importance of protecting our water resources while also protecting our farming communities.
In order to protect all our Florida waters, it is vital that we foster an open and honest dialogue between various interest groups rather than dwell on divisive rhetoric that pits one region against another.
Judy Sanchez, senior director of corporate communications and public affairs, U.S. Sugar, Clewiston