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Sugar industry’s ties to Florida politicians

By Staff | Mar 23, 2016

To the editor:

Rae Ann Wessel, Natural Resource Policy Director, Sanibel-Captiva Conservation Foundation, has stated that 25 years of scientific studies repeatedly cite the one solution that would provide benefits for many parts of the Everglades water system would be storage south of Lake Okeechobee.

January 2016’s excessive flooding made this dramatically apparent when while the Corps of Engineers was engaged in emergency discharges into the Caloosahatchee and St. Lucie estuaries to lower Lake O., AT THE SAME TIME the South Florida Water Management District was back pumping from SOUTH of Lake O. 47,000 acre feet of polluted water back into the Lake requiring additional discharges by the Corps.

In 2008 a plan was proposed, and the public participated in restoration planning with the SFWMD. In 2015 the contract was abandoned partly due to lack of funding dictated by the SFWMD Governing Board.

Meanwhile just this fall, 2015, Florida Senate Bill 552 and HB 7005 were fast tracked through committees, passed the first week of session, and SB 552 was signed by Governor Scott just one week later.

The bill delays all efforts for restoration action by the following: ROLLS BACK protections on water quality, and ROLLS BACK making sources responsible for pollution they committed; PUSHES OUT deadlines for cleaning up water (as in Lake O.); DELAYS agricultural best management practices; FAILS to prioritize and implement conservation measures for water supply management; and ELIMINATES monitoring of existing permits.

Since 1998, according to the National Institute on Money in State Politics, the Florida sugar industry has given at least $21 million dollars to Florida candidates, political parties and PACs.

Estus Whitfield, environmental adviser, has said that “In almost every instance when an Everglades law, rule, or even attitude has changed, it was influenced by the sugar industry.”

Bottom Line: Why are we, the taxpayers, forced to pay for sugar subsidies to an industry which has over the years used its powerful political influence to systematically and deliberately create the environmental crisis which has engulfed us here in Southwest Florida?

Jill Dillon