By Janet Taylor,
Chairwoman, Glades Lives Matter
Anti-farming advocates like Broward County’s Patrick Ferguson and radical elements within the Sierra Club are back at it — denigrating the Glades communities, stoking fear among our most vulnerable residents and insulting the intelligence of our people. This time they are resorting to using the COVID-19 virus crisis to prey upon the fears of our people — they have no shame.
Sugarcane farmers here in the Glades burn the leaves off the sugarcane stalk in a flash fire at harvest time. Its called a preharvest burn. They’ve been harvesting this way for nearly 100 years. The burns are heavily regulated by the state to ensure the health and safety of our surrounding communities.
This year, despite the fact that our air out here is monitored hourly by the local health department and the Florida Department of Environmental Protection, and despite that fact that our farming area enjoys some of the BEST air quality in all of Florida, Agriculture Commissioner Nikki Fried added in even more regulatory safeguards to the preharvest burn program.
Our communities are surrounded by thousands of acres of tall, green plants — crops that continuously clean our air. There is little automobile traffic or power plant infrastructure with all their emissions. The few times significant smoke has drifted around us, it came from wildfires in the Everglades, large multi-thousand-acre burns on Lake Okeechobee, or most recently, heavy smoke that drifted from Cuba and the Yucatan.
But that didn’t stop Mr. Ferguson and his band of radical activists in the Sierra Club from pushing their real agenda — to destroy our local economies and drive farmers off their land. In criticizing the commissioner and invoking the COVID-19 virus as an excuse to shut down farm operations, they mockingly invoked the name of our organization — Glades Lives Matter. True to form, their invocation of our name was condescending and disrespectful.
Our communities are under constant attack from out-of-town hucksters and paid agitators like Mr. Ferguson and his anti-farming crowd. We’ve heard all the snarky, condescending talk from people who don’t live, work, shop, play or worship here, telling us how we should live our lives and govern our affairs. Their disrespect is palpable, their arrogance profound.
What they hate is that agriculture drives our local economy — it’s what drew most of us here. The agriculture companies provide good jobs — many of them union jobs — with employment protections, competitive pay and insurance benefits. Agriculture is our identity. It bonds our communities and, as hard as these radical elements may try, they cannot undo that.
Soon enough Mr. Ferguson will move on to his next assignment and the Sierra Club will regroup to plan a new attack on our communities. Sadly, they will leave behind a small disillusioned group of duped and shamed local followers who sold their souls and, for a brief moment, believed the lies told about their friends and neighbors. Until then we will remind Patrick Ferguson and his gang of mercenaries that Glades Lives really do Matter — they matter enough to know the truth — the truth that will soon run Mr. Ferguson and his ilk out of town.