Florida Sugar Tour

By Kathy Panko, Environmental Issues Group

Florida SugarThe Florida Sugar Cane League, Inc. hosted a tour of the Everglades Agricultural Area (EAA) for the League of Women Voters on January 24th. The tour was both educational and fun!

Morgan Cintron, Community Relations Manager, accompanied our group on the bus ride to Clewiston. She explained that the EAA grows much more than sugar cane. It is the country’s largest supplier of winter vegetables, including sweet corn, green beans, celery, radishes, cabbage, melons, lettuce and other leafy greens, as well as rice. Sugar cane is planted from September through January and is harvested between September and late April. It is sold under the names: “Florida Crystals” or “Domino Sugar.”

Upon arrival, the group viewed a historical presentation of water management and locks in the early 1900’s, construction of the Herbert Hoover Dike in 1932, and the Everglades fires and flooding in the 1940’s.

The South Florida Water Management District (SFWMD) lands stretch 240 miles from Orlando to the Florida Keys. It is 18,000 square miles, encompassing one of the most diverse ecosystems in the world. The challenge is making agriculture runoff as clean as water in the Everglades. The Florida Sugar Cane League is working in conjunction with the SFWMD and local sugar cane farmers to achieve this goal.

In 1948, the Central and Southern Florida Project was first authorized by Congress. Its purpose was to contain, convey and conserve water to promote economic development and the preservation of fish and wildlife.

In 2000, the Comprehensive Everglades Restoration Project (CERP) was approved by Congress. The CERP approach is to use the best available science to restore the “right quantity, quality, timing, and distribution” of freshwater to the natural system. The project is expected to take 30+ years to complete. CERP is a $16 billion project.