Everglades Agricultural Area Farmers (EAA Farmers), through spokesperson Danielle Alvarez, reacted Wednesday to the successful passage of the heavily amended version of State Senator Rob Bradley’s (R-Fleming Island) Senate Bill 10 (SB 10)- Water Resources.
“The Florida Senate further acknowledged what EAA Farmers have been saying all along: A storage reservoir south of Lake Okeechobee can be accomplished on state-owned land without the need to acquire additional farmland,” said Alvarez in a written statement.
Farmers and residents of the EAA were concerned that the 60,000-acre-plus land acquisition proposed in the original version of SB 10 would have resultedin a large amount of active agricultural land being taken out of production.
Lake Okeechobee area residents and business people feared that state acquisition of productive farmland would lead to a loss of jobs at a time when their region’s economy is already struggling. State Senator Kevin Rader (D-Boca Raton) noted during debate on the bill that the EAA had “40-to-50 percent unemployment rate,” with some residents living without running water.
After Bradley’s 31-page amendment to SB 10, filed on April 4th, the bill’s focus changed from land acquisition to water storage solutions that would utilize land, in most part, already in state ownership south of Lake Okeechobee.
“It is critical to Florida’s future to protect local agriculture, homegrown food and rural jobs,” said Alvarez. “We are encouraged that the Senate rejected the fake science paid for by the Everglades Foundation, a special-interest group who is not interested in finding real solutions but, instead, politicizes important matters to try to move their sole agenda forward – taking valuable farmland out of production,” she said.
With Senate approval complete, SB 10 moves to the Florida House for consideration.