Fla. sugar farmers celebrate historic Everglades legislation

The final phase of Everglades restoration has been codified by Gov. Rick Scott’s signature and the Florida sugar farmers are celebrating the new law. The legislation was sponsored by Rep. Matt Caldwell and Sen. Wilton Simpson, and received unanimous passage in both the Florida House and Senate.

Florida Crystals Corp., U.S. Sugar Corp., and Sugar Cane Growers Cooperative of Florida celebrated the change to Florida law which aligns it the bipartisan federal Everglades plan agreed upon by farmers, policymakers, and environmental advocates last year.

An explanation was provided by the sugar farmers:

There will now be a framework and necessary funding of ecosystem restoration project construction. The law calls for Florida’s sugar farmers to continue their successful on-farm Best Management Practices (BMPs), paid for entirely by farmers, and recognizes their success as has been demonstrated by a reduction of phosphorus of 55 percent over the past 17 years. It also extends the Agriculture Privilege tax, an additional payment made by Everglades Agriculture Area (EAA) farmers, until 2035.

“True Everglades champions stepped forward this year to pass a thoughtful, results-oriented plan to move Everglades restoration forward and get the job done,” Pepe Fanjul, Jr., Executive Vice President of Florida Crystals said. “Gov. Rick Scott’s signature on this great piece of legislation is the final act to remove the barriers that have bogged down true environmental solutions. Farmers will continue to do our part as 20-year partners in restoration, and we look forward to the bright road ahead forged through this year’s bipartisan effort.”

“This is a tremendous victory for the Everglades, and for Florida,” Robert Coker, senior vice president of U.S. Sugar said.  “Collaboration and restoration have triumphed over endless and expensive litigation.”

“Florida’s ‘Big Three’ -Governor Scott, Senator Simpson, Representative Caldwell- and the state agencies all should be commended for their leadership in securing such unprecedented, unanimous Legislative and agricultural support and funding for the final phase of restoration,” Coker continued. “We hope this compromise begins a brighter and more productive path going forward–where we all agree to work in good faith to meet the goals and the spirit of collaboration throughout this final phase of Everglades Restoration”

“As dedicated stewards of the environment, EAA farmers are proud to be part of the solution,” Barbara Miedema, Vice President of Sugar Cane Growers Cooperative of Florida said. “We applaud the bipartisan work of policymakers and stakeholders who put their differences aside in order to move on with the job of Everglades restoration.”

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