Members of Florida’s independent, family-owned sugarcane and vegetable farmers are speaking out following political attacks
THE GLADES -- Members of Florida’s independent, family-owned sugarcane and vegetable farmers are speaking out following political attacks made by environmental activist groups and Washington politicians like Congressman Brian Mast.“Our nation currently finds itself in the midst of a supply chain and inflation crisis, and unfortunately, well-funded ‘environmental’ activists and Congressman Brian Mast are attacking hardworking Florida farmers who help feed our country,” said Ardis Hammock, owner and operator of Frierson Farms in Moore Haven. “These attacks threaten to further outsource our domestic food supply and increase our reliance on foreign countries for food.” Another farmer, Camber Pope with Pope Farms in Pahokee, is calling upon activists to stop the constant attacks on American farmers. “Glades farmers are among the most sustainable and reliable producers of safe, locally-grown produce in the entire world,” said Pope. “These baseless attempts to cast farmers as villains are an insult to the generations of my family that have proudly farmed this land in the Glades communities we call home.” Pope Farms is a leading provider of Florida sweet corn, and leases land as an independent family grower for U.S. Sugar. The farms are located near Congressman Mast’s Congressional District 18. “Congressman Mast has never visited our farms or made any attempts to learn more about us,” Pope added. “Instead, he makes senseless attacks, which are not productive and will only lead to more division and food insecurity in this country.” Hammock also stated that these continued attacks also ignore farmers’ significant contributions to cleaner air and water quality as their farm lands provide water cleansing best management practices and critical green space in comparison to more congested, traffic-heavy urban areas. Hammock also encouraged urban residents to visit the places their food is grown to learn more about the “farm to table” journey that moves crops from farmers’ fields to families’ tables. Since 1996, Florida’s sugarcane, vegetable, rice and sod farmers in the Everglades Agricultural Area have reduced phosphorus in the water flowing off their fields by an annual average of 55% – more than twice the 25% required by law. Additionally, farmers farm near communities with some of the cleanest air in the state. Independent and government-regulated air quality monitors routinely show residents in the Glades farming communities enjoy air quality better than those living in heavily populated coastal communities, as evidenced by the Florida Department of Environmental Regulation Air Quality monitors.