A shady group of environmentalist organizations bypasses honest dialogue for dishonest rhetoric.
By Jacob Engels
What’s that they say about when you back a rabid dog into a corner? After several environmentalist groups were called out by this publication and others for their soon-to-be lawsuit against hardworking farmers… Floridians were exposed to a very dark narrative.
The Sierra Club, and more importantly the Everglades Foundation, have begun preparations for that lawsuit in a tired and aggressive war against middle class farmers. As we predicted, they are turning their sights on a long-accepted and environmentally sound tradition of cane-burning, a vital part of the annual harvest of sugarcane that produces 16 million tons of sugarcane and supports tens of thousands of jobs.
Ignoring rulings by federal and state agencies that agree that the cane-burning practice is no threat to Floridian’s health, these out-of-touch groups – funded by a hedge fund billionaire and his friends — are spreading misinformation. Political environmental groups have long engaged in a very skillful strategy of using different “public faces” when attacking. Florida groups, including the Sierra Club, are no exception.
During the summer months, we have seen cleverly named environmental groups spend big money (MILLIONS) to try and convince the Florida legislature to spend BILLIONS to purchase thousands of acres of farmland across Florida. They proposed the taxpayers foot the bill, so the land could be flooded and destroyed… in the name of “saving” Everglades. It had nothing to do with the Everglades.
It was entirely about putting sugar farmers out of business. Scientists and noted environmental experts agreed, stating the land purchase was “unnecessary” and “misguided.” In that campaign, the common thread was that, one way or another, the funding came either from the Everglades Foundation itself or the same small group of wealthy people who fund the Everglades Foundation, led by the largest benefactor, billionaire hedge fund manager Paul Tudor Jones.
The same Paul Tudor Jones who was caught filling wetlands on his own estate in 1990 — and had to pay a $2 million penalty. Despite the millions spent, that campaign against the sugar farmers failed. After the failed effort, environmental special interests funded by a convicted polluter are letting the Sierra Club lead the charge. Same folks. Same money. Different face. The Sierra Club has been receiving money from the Everglades Foundation for years. And lots of it.
This time, the target is cane-burning, a practice that has been a part of south Florida farming for decades with no ill effects. In fact, the areas where the cane-burning is done have some of the best air quality in the state. It is also the most widely accepted method for preparing sugarcane for harvesting in the world. Yet, suddenly, the Sierra Club is telling Floridians that cane-burning is bad, endangers health and must be stopped — even if they have to sue someone.
Regardless of the fact that the science and facts tell a completely different story. The practice of cane-burning is done to remove the foliage from the cane and reduce the moisture in the plants before they are primed for harvest.
The farmers obtain permits from the State for those burns, which insure that wind conditions are safe. They only burn 40-80 acres at time, usually under an hour, and only do it during daylight hours. Laws are in place, tightly regulated, and the impact to the air quality temporary and up to environmental standards. Interestingly enough, the sugarcane burns account for less than 20% of all controlled burns each year.
Yet you do not see the Sierra Club or these other environmental groups up in arms when controlled burns are conducted by anyone other than sugar farmers. In short, there is no scientific or environmental basis for the Sierra Club & Everglades Foundation attack on cane-burning.
Rather, the alternatives to burning, such as leaving foliage on the ground or even taking the land out of production, would do more harm than good, according to scientific experts. No, the campaign to stop cane-burning isn’t a campaign FOR the environment.
It’s just the latest campaign AGAINST farmers — and against the more than 12,000 jobs and $3 billion sugarcane production provides for Florida each year. A small coterie of the wealthy upper-crust have been trying to put these farmers out of business for years, this being their latest lame effort. This is about politics, not about the environment or mother earth. We know better, Floridians know better, and our elected officials SHOULD know better.
The cane-burning practices utilized each and every year in our state produce our world-famous sugar. It is also safe and up to code. So, is this really about protecting the environment or improving air quality…NO. This is a tired and stale crusade that we have seen time and again. Except now, a different front. Don’t be fooled again!
Jacob Engels, is the Founder of East Orlando Post & Seminole County Post. He is a seasoned political operative who has led numerous statewide political groups and has worked on several high-profile local, statewide, and national races. Jacob has been interviewed on national television & radio programs, with his work having been featured in the Orlando Sentinel, New York Times, Washington Post, Miami Herald and other publications nationwide. He can be reached at email@example.com