The argument concerning the Environment in SW Florida centers on the control of the water flow from Lake Okeechobee through the rivers system to the Gulf of Mexico. The solutions proposed, primarily center on opposing views of when and how much water should be released - causing unwanted changes in the salinity of the water near the basins; algae growth; etc. These arguments are compounded by the lack of rain here over the last 10 years. Recently the Lee County Board of Commissioners lined up on each side of the issue of allowing water from wetlands to return to the river and Lake Okeechobee flow. The problem is that these estuaries will flow through farmlands loaded with fertilizers and other elements detrimental to fish, animal, and plant survival.
Tourism is Florida's largest source of revenue and tourism does little to hurt the environment - except, perhaps for New Yorkers who throw trash on the side of the road. But I digress. Unless we want Florida and especially SW Florida to become Hialeah, we need to keep the tourists happy, and to do that, we need to preserve our natural resources and our pristine beauty that brings tourists here in the first place.
The solution is not hidden in the peripheral arguments, no matter how hard we dissect each issue. To remedy the problem - pollution caused by farming, we must go to the heart of the matter. Which brings us into conflict with Agriculture; not coincidentally, Florida's second-largest industry. Lake Okeechobee is surrounded by farmland. The largest polluter is the farming of sugar cane. In the tables below as you can see, American production of sugar cane is insignificant in the world market. Brazil produces so much that it has become almost energy independent by using their sugar cane for bio-fuels, used in producing electricity and powering their automobiles.
A ripe target for reform is the sugar program, which protects sugar growers and inflates domestic sugar to twice the world price. This racket costs U.S. families about $2 billion annually, hitting them whenever they buy chocolates, breakfast cereal, soft drinks, and the like. When the Republicans controlled Congress, they shied away from sugar reform, yielding to the power of the sugar growers' lobby. The Democrats could have shown that they are different. By reforming sugar policies, they could have cut food costs for families and end unfair benefits for a small group of wealthy sugar barons.
The sugar program is essentially a producer cartel run out of Washington. The Agriculture Department operates a complex loan program to guarantee sugar growers certain prices, which it enforces with import barriers and domestic production controls. The import barriers prevent cheaper foreign sugar from putting downward pressure on domestic prices. Current rules restrict sugar imports to about 15% of the American market. By contrast, when rules were looser prior to the 1980s, sugar imports accounted for half the U.S. market.
In the domestic market, the Agriculture Department decides what total sugar production ought to be and allots 54% of production to beet sugar and 46% to cane sugar. The department then allots each sugar company a specific production quota. According to the Government Accountability Office, 42% of sugar program benefits go to just 1% of sugar growers. High sugar prices harm manufacturers of candies, chocolates, soft drinks, and breakfast cereal. A 2006 study by the Commerce Department found that for each sugar industry job saved by the sugar program, nearly three food manufacturing jobs are lost.
Numerous companies have relocated to Canada and Mexico, where sugar prices are much lower. Chicago, once the nation's candy manufacturing capital, has lost thousands of jobs. In 2004, candy maker Fannie Farmer closed its Chicago factory and Brachs moved its Chicago candy production to Mexico. Michigan took a hit in 2002, when Kraft moved its 600–worker Life Savers factory to Canada in search of low–cost sugar. Hershey Foods closed plants in Pennsylvania, Colorado and California and relocated them to Canada as well.
The sugar program also causes environmental damage. Large areas of the Florida Everglades have been converted to cane sugar production as a result of sugar protection. That has caused damage from the related land drainage, runoff of chemical fertilizers, and the destruction of natural habitat. With all the negative effects of the sugar program, why does it survive? Because Congress often puts the interests of the favored few ahead of the general public good. In this case, sugar growers are well–organized and they protect the program by providing large campaign support to presidents, governors and many members of Congress. They old Sawyer Mantra - PARTY FIRST.
Distribution Initial FY 2012 allocations.
Citrus is the dominant irrigated crop in the Caloosahatchee Basin, occupying over 91,000 acres. Sugarcane closely follows citrus in acreage with an estimated 75,000 acres of production. Beef cattle production is also important to the region, with Hendry, Glades, Charlotte, and Lee Counties having a combined herd of approximately 205,000 head in 1999.
SAWYER win-win SOLUTION
First, the Teaparty's fair-haired boy (empty suit) Marco Rubio frequently is a houseguest of the two Fanjul Brothers at their sumptuous waterfront mansions on Long Island. So don't bother him with your environmental concerns Congressman Tom Rooney (Representative of the sugar cane area), State Senator LizBeth Benacquisto, and State Representatives, Matt Caldwell and Dane Eagle are both recipients of campaign payoffs from Big Sugar (Lee County candidate, Paige Kreegel, DOES NOT take Big Sugar donations.
Eliminate subsidies and import duties on sugarcane. Big sugar will no longer make a profit, and the sugarcane fields will disappear in Florida. The sugar beet industry will thrive in the upper Midwest. Then pass a requirement that farmland within 200 feet of any flowing water source will be free of contaminating chemicals - and compensate farmers accordingly.