Florida Farmers, Undaunted by False Political Attacks, Push Back on Social Media

by | Aug 24, 2018

Fed up with being smeared by politicians and reporters alike, Florida farmers are pushing back by sharing their stories on social media.

Politicians, mostly Democrats, but a smattering of Republicans too, have sought favor from voters by blaming sugar and citrus farmers for polluting waterways and causing algae blooms that are choking local rivers and beaches. The pollution accusations are regularly launched by environmental activists, whose attacks and publicity stunts are eagerly covered by sympathetic newspapers and frequently include full color photos or video of protesters wearing biohazard protective clothing. 

As has been pointed out previously, the attacks are false. Algae blooms have been well-documented in the state for over 100 years, and the attacks are purely political, not aimed at actually reducing the size and scope of the problem. 

But Florida farmers have had enough. They want their fellow citizens to know that farmers are the “original environmentalists,” and “natural caretakers” of their own land. Without a sustainable environment, they wouldn’t be able to make a living.

Concerned with the direction the political rhetoric is headed, farmers are partnering with scientists who point out that the source of the algae blooms, too much phosphorous in Florida’s waterways, is actually caused by a much more significant source: Florida’s growing population.  

Stewart Swanson, an extension agent with the University of Florida’s Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences (UF/IFAS) told the Okeechobee News of the growing disconnect between rhetoric and reality when it comes to algae blooms and agriculture:

“Everybody looks for a word that’ll catch everybody’s attention you know that’s how you get ‘Big Sugar’ and everything,” said Mr. Swanson. “But there isn’t that much acreage of sugarcane north of the lake. There’s a couple thousand acres near Highlands County, that’s about it. But in the watershed that runs all the way to Disney World you have 140,000 acres of citrus. So it’s 140,000 acres of citrus versus about 2,000 acres of sugar cane that’s in the watershed north of the lake.”

In the video below, Florida farmers and scientists acknowledge the algae problem but point out a painful truth: the pollution in Lake Okeechobee is not caused by sugar farmers. It’s caused by Florida’s ever-growing population and all of the negatives that come with that, including lawn fertilizer runoff, septic tank and sewage seeping into the waterways, and agriculture runoff north of the lake, mostly citrus and cattle farming. 

The bottom line is that politicians and media attacks “Big Sugar” is actually distracting millions of Floridians from identifying and dealing with the real problem: ourselves.

6 Comments

  1. Anonymous

    It would’ve been nice if “Big Sugar” would’ve included the whole article from the university of Florida— like the part where it says “ Big Sugar “ needs to give up the acreage needed to restore the glow to the Everglades— a natural water filtration system. Instead they are trying to refine the acreage from agricultural land to residential so when the inevitable happens—eminent domain—they will get billions based on value instead of millions.

    Reply
    • Tim Martin

      The Corps of Engineers ruined that ecosystem, not big sugar. They just took advantage of it. Blaming farmers now for wrongs done by government years ago is lame. No farmers, no food.

      Reply
    • Anonymous

      The everglades were nearly destroyed by the Corps of Engineer’s decades ago. John Anderson even sings about it in Seminole Wind. “They made their plans and they drained the land, now the glades are goin dry.” The worst thing in the world for the everglades and Florida in general is a yankee showing up and saying “We’re here to help.” Get back north of the Caloosahatchee and leave our land alone.

      Reply
  2. J hill

    It doesn’t fall on party lines but on the bad water tourism is dying water activities are dangerous and from where i stand it looks like you did it .we need to buy the land the amendment passed for ban political donations of any size and throw out the ones who promise the world til after the elections if they stayed on this day in day out start to finish it would. Be done yet it only gets talked about during cyanobacteria blooms and not a facter any other time
    Kinda seems like they want us on each other rather than fix problems

    Reply
  3. John Rutledge

    Fake news

    Reply
  4. MARK MACDONALD

    Okay take the farmers land and guess what we still have a problem it is population.
    Thank Big Mickey not Big Sugar. I’m not a farmer i live on the coast and know where the water comes from and we would destroy what is left of the glades if we dumped the golf course effluent in to the glades. See the real problem we need to temper the growth and control the run off, its not too late. We dont need more roof tops in river basin run off, no more new golf courses and put a dike around the other lakes up there and treat the water there.

    Reply

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