Making sure April showers wont bring May algae, Representative Francis Rooney is taking on the sugar industry, hoping that our waterways don’t drown in green gunk again.
He says sugar farmers are in large part responsible for the blooms and believes he has the answer to solve the water crisis, “One of the things I’m trying to do is to remove agriculture from the corps mission and focus their mission exclusively on dealing with flood control and water.”
The congressman says big sugar are menaces on our waterways, but banana farmer Kiley Harper says an attack on one of us is an attack on all of us, “If it wasn’t for the support we have from sugar farmers, who are also vegetable farmers, who are also banana farmers, we want to be able to begin living our dream.”
The congressman wants Lake Okeechobee levels as low as possible before the rainy season, which could mean less discharge in the wet season.
“The sugar industry fights that because they want to have the storage capacity in the winter in case of some hypothetical water need arises, which is hardly has ever arisen,” Rooney said.
Harper and many other farmers we spoke to are worried about Rooney’s plan.
“Farming is a part of our livelihood,” Harper said. “I’m incredibly concerned about the fact that my child and the children in my community won’t have a future.”
According to the state, Florida’s agriculture industry brings in more than $6 billion, and the state ranks 3rd and 4th in vegetable and fruit exports respectively.
Kiley says it’s time to stop worrying about the farmers south of the lake, “We depend on the lake for our ability to grow our crops and also for our ability to sustain acceptable water supply for the community I live in.” And focus on the pollutions coming in north of the lake.
An independent farmer for U.S. Sugar sent this statement in response to Congressman Rooney’s use of the word “Menace”, calling it “An insult to anyone who farms for a living… Comments like Rooney’s threaten American farming jobs…”