Last month, the Sugar Cane Growers Cooperative of Florida celebrated the close of our 60th crop. A momentous occasion that highlighted 60 years of environmental stewardship, innovative advancements in farming, and employing both members of our local community as well as world-class experts.
Farmers in the Everglades Agricultural Area, like those at the Cooperative, are enjoying somewhat of a renaissance in farming innovation. We are consistently pioneering new techniques to become more efficient and sustainable.
This year, we’ve significantly lowered our usage of fuel in the field, implemented new risk management tools, and recruited first-rate talent to further cultivate our revolutionary farming and processing methods.
We have gone above and beyond in our efforts to generate better soil and have integrated best management practices to exceed water quality standards by more than double.
Though we have made meaningful progress, this year’s harvest proved to be a particularly challenging one. Earlier this year, farmers in the EAA endured one of the worst freezes in more than a decade, with widespread damage to our crops. We worked around the clock to salvage what we could from the devastation during the declared state of emergency.
Now with the crop season behind us, we look back at those losses coupled with the financial suffering due to the rising costs of inflation, especially the mounting prices of natural gas and diesel. Surging inflation also puts farmers at a substantial loss because most of our product is forward sold, and input costs come in real time. These hurdles are placing a serious strain on farmers not only in the EAA, but across the state and nation.
As a result, this poses a real danger to our nation’s food security – threatening a greater dependency on foreign sources of food.
The truth is, this is the cost of doing business for a farmer. Overcoming these obstacles is what it takes to ensure grocery store aisles are stocked, food is on your family’s dinner table, and that our nation can enjoy a secure domestic food supply.
Which is why now more than ever, farmers need the support from our community and our elected leaders, so we can continue to fulfill this essential mission.
For a start, we ask that our community joins in with us as we celebrate the conclusion of our 60th crop – as there is still so much to be grateful for.
During our 155 days of harvest, our team of farmers, engineers, electricians, mechanics, and drivers worked together to safely and successfully harvest 73,632 acres of Cooperative land which grew more than 3.2 million tons of sugarcane, yielding nearly 700 million pounds of sugar.
As we look toward the future, our promise to the community is that our 41 member-growers will remain steadfast in our commitment to being good stewards to the land and the community that gives us so much. At the heart of Florida farming is our land because our land is our legacy, and our job is to farm it with great care so that our family farms may be passed on from generation to generation.
Over the next 60 years, we will do our part to keep our nation fed – no matter the state of the economy, how extreme the weather is, or if there is a global pandemic – and we can achieve this as long as we continue to embrace innovation and sustainability, prioritize the need for a domestic food supply, and have the support and backing of our community for the critical work we do.
Matt Hoffman is the President and CEO of the Sugar Cane Growers Cooperative of Florida. The Cooperative is comprised of 41 mostly family-owned member-growers who farm and grow sugarcane on more than 70,000 acres primarily in Palm Beach County.