James Bovard’s recent rant on Marco Rubio, titled “Rubio’s Sweet But Wasted Bravery” riled up the Florida, Texas and Hawaii agriculture associations.
By Saint John Hunt
Ryan Weston, the executive vice president of the Florida, Texas and Hawaii Sugar Cane Growers Association was quick to respond to a recent article written by James Bovard that is considered to be rife with distortions and errors about the Florida agriculture industry. The article targeted Rubio for supporting the sugar industry, which provides thousands of jobs to hardworking Floridians.
Disputing the article’s argument which implied that sugar cost more in the United States than elsewhere in the world because politicians are pushing up crop prices, Weston pointed out that consumers outside of the U.S., on average, pay 20 percent more for sugar than Americans.
The article also implied that Florida’s soil and climate were not suitable for farming, by claiming that huge amounts of fertilizer were needed to stabilize Florida’s soil to make it productive for farming, which increases phosphorous levels in the water, but Weston contends that the sugarcane region of Florida is known to be one of the most productive farming states in the country.
He said, “South Florida provides an excellent climate and rich productive soils for growing, and farmers in the region produce nearly 10 percent of the sugar in the U.S. — a critical domestic source for a commodity vital to our country’s food supply.” In response to claims that increased phosphorus levels have “ravaged the region’s ecosystem,” Weston explains, “Phosphorous is naturally occurring in the muck soils south of Lake Okeechobee, and sugar cane requires very little fertilizer compared with other crops. Over the past two decades, Florida’s sugar farmers and their best practices have prevented more than 3,000 tons of phosphorous from flowing south toward the Everglades — an undeniable demonstration of their ongoing commitment to restoring the famed River of Grass.“
Weston wanted to set the record straight about the nation’s need for Florida farming and how it is helping to improve conditions in the Everglades. He said, “Florida’s farmers play an essential role in improving water quality and restoring the treasured Everglades. Recently the South Florida Water Management District announced that sugar farmers have reduced phosphorous leaving their lands by 79 percent — continuing a 20-year trend in which farming best practices have resulted in average phosphorous reductions of 56 percent annually, which far exceeds state requirements.”
It should also be noted that Florida’s local sugarcane farmers provide more than $3.2 billion annually to Florida’s economy and provide 12,500 good jobs for Floridians.