Sugar farmers say the plan for Everglades restoration violates federal law. Growers are demanding change, but others fear legal action could delay restoration progress.
Three groups representing sugar farmers in Florida are suing the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers over water supply concerns.
Florida sunshine and water aren’t just positive for tourism alone.
“We’re all dependent on water, sun, good, clean environment to grow our crops, yes,” said Carl Perry, the owner of Perry Farm.
Perry, a fifth-generation farmer, needs these things to grow sugarcane and watermelon.
“I say it’s a six-day-a-week job,” Perry said.
As USACE moves forward with Everglades restoration projects, including the EAA Reservoir, which will hold water from Lake Okeechobee, clean it, and send it south to the Everglades, sugar farmers say the corps breaks a promise to maintain water supply for growers.
“We just simply want the Corps to stick with the commitment that they made in 2000, which provides water for the environment, for the farmers and the residents of South Florida,” Perry said.
However, people such as James Evans, with Sanibel-Captiva Conservation Foundation, fears the lawsuits can delay progress on Everglades restoration efforts.
“Honestly, the taxpayers of Florida should be outraged by this lawsuit,” Evans said. “Because this lawsuit has the potential to slow down or completely derail the Everglades Agricultural Area Reservoir Project and our ability to store, treat and convey water south into the Everglades and Florida Bay, where it’s desperately needed.”
We reached out to USACE about the lawsuits, but the Corps would not comment on current or pending litigation.
Sugar growers say they support Everglades restoration projects, but they don’t want those water projects to slow their flow.
“I want to make it clear that the farmers are not against the projects that are going on,” Perry said. “We’re not against that.”