Never letting a good crisis go to waste, Florida environmental activists, including the Everglades Foundation-supported Everglades Trust and the Sierra Club, launched coordinated political attacks on Florida’s tireless farmers this week, just as the coronavirus epidemic began to highlight the efforts of Florida’s farmers and their role in producing and protecting the American food supply.
The attacks reveal a level of ignorance about exactly what Florida’s farmers – particularly those in the Everglades Agricultural Area – actually do.
In a recent Facebook post, the Everglades Trust called recent news about farmers staying open during the coronavirus epidemic a “PR stunt.” The criticism was focused on Clewiston-based U.S. Sugar, and the fact they actually produce…sugar.
But U.S. Sugar produces far more than just sugar. Their citrus operations produce enough oranges to fill 150 million glasses of pure, premium Florida-grown orange juice. They also grow corn, rice, lettuce, bell peppers, kale, peanuts, turnips, green beans, watermelon, and broccoli.
But let’s stick to sugar for a moment. These activists either ignore or are unaware that sugar is a basic ingredient in the manufacture of fever-reducing children’s medications like Tylenol and Motrin. Sugar is also used as a preservative in a wide variety of canned goods.
And these are the same politics-first activists who, just last month, noshed fancy, sugar-laden cakes bearing the likeness of Armando Pérez, the Miami rapper known as “Pit Bull,” a featured guest at their star-studded political fundraising gala.
At the same time the Everglades Foundation and their various political allies were wining and dining with celebrities, Florida’s farmers and food processors, an estimated 2 million people with an estimated $140 billion impact on the economy, were cultivating crops and producing the food that the eastern half of America depends on during the winter months.
Across the Everglades Agricultural Area (EAA), which feeds nearly 180 million Americans annually, the sweet corn harvest alone can feed 16.5 million people, the rice grown there is enough to feed up to 25 million people for a year. EAA farmers supply enough lettuce to make 1 billion salads each year, 350 million servings of green beans, and a lot more.
Much like at the start Operation Iraqi Freedom, when “Baghdad Bob” denied a U.S. presence in Iraq as American tanks rolled into the city, the Everglades Trust has their own version of Baghdad Bob: Executive Director Kimberly Mitchell. She is leading the verbal attack against Florida farmers while denying they are actively cultivating vital food crops, even as some Americans eye empty shelves at their local grocery stores.
Food production is always vital, but never more so than during a worldwide pandemic. The U.S. Department of Homeland Security deemed agriculture as part of America’s “critical infrastructure,” meaning farmers must continue to farm and process food during the ongoing crisis.
Repeating much of the Everglades Trust’s false attacks, the Sierra Club this week also attacked South Florida farmers by attempting to link the carefully controlled and regulator approved sugar cane stalk burning with health issues. There is zero evidence to support the charge. According to a report from the Stuart News, local doctors “cannot definitively blame [the farming practices] for respiratory issues.
These kinds of unrelenting attacks against farmers – especially as food production becomes increasingly important – from Everglades Foundation-supported environmental groups, raises questions about whether they are committed to addressing Florida environmental issues or are merely pursuing an activist political agenda. In addition to their anti-farming rhetoric, the groups pushed for taking 60,000 acres of farmland out of production in 2017. With food in demand lately, Americans should be thankful there’s still ample farmland in Florida to continue food production.