Update: The Florida Senate Environmental Preservation and Conservation Committee passed SB10 Tuesday.
Danielle Alvarez, spokesperson for EAA Farmers, Inc. said in a statement:
“Today, the Florida Senate confirmed that SB10 is nothing more than a big government land grab. Four hours of expert testimony prior to today gave evidence that the sources of the water volume and pollution problems come from north of Lake Okeechobee and in Martin County’s local basin yet the bill has no mention of how to stop that pollution from plaguing Florida’s lakes, rivers and estuaries. Instead, it solely puts those problems on the backs of farmers.
“Despite knowing that landowners in the Everglades Agricultural Area are not willing sellers of their private property, Senators voted to move forward with this liberal plan to take the land. The Senate’s overreach with SB10 will accomplish nothing more than devastating thousands of farm families, hurting our local food supply, and making Americans more dependent on imported food from foreign countries.”
The Everglades Foundation praised the committee’s action.
The Everglades Foundation today applauded the Senate Committee on Environmental Preservation and Conservation for voting favorably on Senate Bill 10, sponsored by State Senator Rob Bradley (R-Fleming Island). SB 10 would expedite a critical Everglades restoration project to reduce harmful discharges from Lake Okeechobee to the St. Lucie and Caloosahatchee rivers and send water south into the Everglades and Florida Bay.
“On behalf of The Foundation, I applaud the Senate Committee on Environmental Preservation and Conservation for voting favorably on SB 10,” said Eric Eikenberg, CEO of The Foundation. “This legislation would expedite water storage south of Lake Okeechobee to store, clean and send water into the Everglades and Florida Bay.
“Floridians from all over the state grasp the importance of this water storage reservoir and their support of this legislation has been immense,” said Eikenberg. “This reservoir will drastically reduce the amount of discharges to the east and west, finally giving us an option to send Lake Okeechobee water south and solving a water crisis that is a concern to those that live in all corners of the state.”
Landowners in the Everglades Agricultural Area south of Lake Okeechobee said Monday that they are not willing sellers of their property to the government for water reservoirs as proposed under Senate Bill 10.
The letter signed by 13 people who collectively own hundreds of thousands of acres offarmland or serve as executives of companies which own ag land in western Palm Beach County is slated to be delivered to the Senate President Joe Negron and the entire Florida Legislature Tuesday. It states they do not support any governmental acquisition of farm lands south of Lake Okeechobee to solve issues that are being caused north of Lake Okeechobee and in Martin County.
Sens. Joe Negron, R-Stuart, and Rob Bradley, R-Fleming Island, are pushing for a $2.4 billion plan outlined in SB 10 to buy 60,000 acres of farmland for water reservoirs south of Lake Okeechobee they contend will help solve pollution and toxic algae problems in the St. Lucie and Caloosahatchee estuaries.
The bill filed in late January says if there aren’t enough willing sellers, then 153,000 acres of U.S. Sugar Corp.’s land should be purchased under an option entered into in 2010.
The letter’s signatories include Robert Buker Jr. of U.S. Sugar Corp. and SBG Farms, Robert Underbrink of King Ranch’s Big B Sugar Corp., James Shine Jr. of the Sugar Cane Growers Cooperative of Florida, Raymond “Rick” Roth Jr. of Roth Farms, Alfonso Fanjul and J. Pepe Fanjul of Florida Crystals Corp., Alex Tiedkte of Eastgate Farms, John L. Hundley of Hundley Farms, Justin G. Soble of Star Ranch Enterprises and Star Farms Corp., Alonso Azqueta of Trucane Sugar Corp., Frances Hand and Homer Hand, private landowners, and Dennis Wedgworth of Wedgworth Farms.
The letter can be read here:
“We are not willing sellers,” said John L. Hundley, chairman of the board of the Sugar Cane Growers Cooperative of Florida, Belle Glade, and president of Hundley Farms. “Taking our farmlands out of production to pursue a plan that is not science-based will not fix the problems in the coastal estuaries. Instead, taking fertile farmland will punish the thousands of hard-working farm families and farming businesses in our rural Everglades Agricultural Area.”
Hundley’s son John S. Hundley, vice president/production, Hundley Farms, is president of EAA Farmers, a non-profit coalition of 60 farmers, landowners and businesses who say further land purchases would put small farmers out of business.
Keith Wedgworth, of Wedgworth Farms and EAA Farmers said the bill has the potential to shut down at least two vegetable packinghouses and close the cooperative’s sugar mill in the region with no benefit to the coastal estuaries.
“Eliminating more farmland with the nation’s most productive soils will hurt our local food supply and make us more reliant on imported food from foreign countries. This is not a plan in the best interest of of the families in Florida and across the nation who rely on steady food supplies from American farmers they can trust. Sadly, this is just another anti-farmer, anti-jobs bill,” Wedgworth said.
The landowners say the Comprehensive Everglades Restoration Plan and the Central Everglades Planning Project, which are approved federal and state projects, are pending and awaiting funding, and are the “real solution” to curbing discharges from Lake Okeechobee.
The landowners’ other main points as stated in the letter are:
•Water reservoirs south of Lake Okeechobee simply cannot store enough water to stop the discharges from the lake when the region is inundated from heavy rains.
•Buying more land does not fix the problem.
•Farmers in the EAA have been working to restore the Everglades for more than two decades.
•Water quality improvements on their land are 100 percent paid for by EAA farmers.
•Farmers south of the lake have seen more than 120,000 acres of productive farmland purchased by the state over the last two decades.
This article was originally posted here: http://protectingyourpocket.blog.palmbeachpost.com/2017/02/06/eaa-farmers-landowners-to-tell-legislature-we-do-not-want-to-sell/