Anti-farming 'study' ignores Glades’ excellent air quality

Posted 8/31/22

Once again Florida sugarcane farmers are under attack by a biased media outlet touting a new, privately funded study ...

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Anti-farming 'study' ignores Glades’ excellent air quality

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Once again Florida sugarcane farmers are under attack by a biased media outlet touting a new, privately funded study based primarily on “estimates” and conjecture.  You might have seen the latest in a series of articles in the Palm Beach Post and it will probably recycled in the TC Palm and other Gannett papers.  This story, along with much of the other reporting driven by anti-farming activists, is alleging a public health crisis when health experts say that’s not true.Shame on Florida State University for letting its good name be associated with such shoddy work.  The study, “Impacts of Sugarcane Fires on Air Quality and Public Health in South Florida," led by Holly K. Nowell of FSU, was published Aug. 5 in Environmental Health Perspectives. The study, supposedly compared rates of death all over South Florida from illnesses linked to exposure to fine particle pollution from 2008 to 2018.  Because fine particles or PM2.5 can come from regulated agricultural burns, the researchers automatically tied these rates of death to local farmers.  No actual proof that sugarcane burns were involved, just a lot of smoke and mirrors …Here is what the Palm Beach Post has continually ignored:•  Air quality monitoring from government, private and even media sources routinely shows the Glades community has, on average, better air quality than in congested, urban communities on the coasts (Source: U.S. Sugar 2022 “State of Our Air” report)

•  Sources such as Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and the American Lung Association have rated Palm Beach County  (farming area) as having among the best air quality for particulate matter .

• Sugarcane farmers’ prescribed burning is strictly and heavily regulated by the government daily on a field-by-field basis.

Florida sugarcane farmers can argue against this ill-informed article all day long. But we took the Post’s inquiry and the new study to a local air quality expert with more than 30 years of experience working for Palm Beach County in air quality and public health.

Randall Miller is the Former Environmental Supervisor for Air Quality with Palm Beach County Health Department. He read the article and the study and here’s what he has to say about it: “As a former environmental supervisor for air quality with the Palm Beach County Health Department, it is clear the Palm Beach Post continues to ignore the fact that the air in the farming communities is cleaner than coastal communities like West Palm Beach, where its own employees live and work. These ‘estimates’ or ‘best guesses’ are in direct conflict with actual on-the-ground data collected over days, months, and years by multiple public, private, and media air monitoring equipment that shows the air meets ALL EPA air quality standards.”

Miller says that the conclusions of this study are meritless and without proof. He says the study fails to make any direct connection between highly regulated pre-harvest burns and health issues, but instead, it makes conflated assumptions to unfairly attack farmers.

The Palm Beach Post also fails to mention motor vehicle emissions and Saharan dust, which are contributors in the few times where there is poor air quality — both in our farming area and on the coasts.

It is readily known that anti-farming group participated in this study (in fact, the study cites the Calusa Sierra Club) which made it biased from the beginning.''

Local farmers will no longer allow this misinformation to be disseminated within our community without challenging its inaccuracies and providing the facts to set the record straight.

The actual air quality data in this study and multiple on-the-ground air quality monitors in our region provide good data that plainly shows our air quality is good and meets ALL state and federal Clean Air Act regulations.

Over the past decade, U.S. Sugar and other area agribusinesses have hosted tens of thousands of local residents – including members of the media – on a tour of sugarcane and vegetable farms. We pride ourselves on sharing factual information that shows we continue to be good stewards of our land, water and air resources as we produce food that feeds our neighbors and a large part of our nation.

For more information, please visit U.S. Sugar online.

Florida Department of Environmental Protection Air Quality monitoring is available online.

Related stories:

Controlled burns important to Everglades ecosystem health

Prescribed fire in Florida

Prescribed  burns benefit Florida environment

Air quality, sugar cane, burning, Palm Beach County

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