Say What, U.S. Sugar? 'Burning Cane' Report Reveals Big Sugar Lies

Say What, U.S. Sugar? 'Burning Cane' Report Reveals Big Sugar Lies

BELLE GLADE, FL — Today, the Stop the Burn – Go Green Harvest Campaign released "Burning Cane: Assessment of Current Air Quality Monitoring During Sugarcane Harvest in the EAA," a report authored by Dr. Jessica L. McCarty, Ph.D., co-investigator for the NOAA NASA Fire Influence on Regional and Global Environments and Air Quality Experiment (FIREX-AQ) Field Team and associate professor and director of the Geospatial Analysis Center at Miami University of Ohio. Sierra Club Florida asked for and funded the report in order to explore what had appeared to be misinformation advanced by the U.S. Sugar Corporation relating to (1) air quality monitoring in the Everglades Agricultural Area (EAA); and (2) air quality in the EAA.

The report lays bare the insidious misinformation callously promoted by the sugar industry that has kept the communities of color in the Glades shrouded in the toxic smoke and ash that robs them of their health, quality of life and economic opportunity while the whiter more affluent communities to the East get protection.

The report concludes the following:

  • Sugarcane burning is a common practice in South Florida, creating smoke pollution and unhealthy air quality conditions for the residents of the Everglades Agricultural Area.
  • Eliminating burning within 10 miles of communities in the EAA and growing coastal towns and suburbs would reduce sources of sugarcane burning emissions by almost 60%.
  • The readings from the individual sensor in Belle Glade are an assessment of smoke and other aerosol pollution for that specific location — and not a proxy for the air quality of the entire region.
  • Readings from a single sensor in one location within the EAA cannot capture smoke pollution across the 700,000-acre area — let alone the contiguous towns and suburbs.
  • There is a clear need for regulatory-grade air quality sensors in the EAA communities, including but not limited to Belle Glade, Pahokee, Indiantown, Loxahatchee, Wellington and Royal Palm Beach.
  • Missing sensor data from coincident smoke event days during sugarcane field burning underscores the uncertainty of whether the Belle Glade monitoring station can be compared to the monitoring station in West Palm Beach.
  • A reporting and verification system for "black snow" should be added to the online Florida Forest Service prescribed burning web mapping service to monitor ash plumes from sugarcane burning.

Steve Messam stated: "This report bolsters the demand for the creation of burn-free buffer zones to protect our communities from toxic pre-harvest sugar field burning. Commissioner Fried needs to use this information to protect our communities and push the industry to adopt green harvesting."

Colin Walkes added: "No amount of billboards, mailers, and other forms of propaganda can hide the truth we in the Glades have known from experience, that pre-harvest burning is not good for our air quality or health. We hope this report will wake up Glades residents along with local and statewide leaders to the lies they have been fed by the sugar industry and start to demand better from our industry. When you know better, you do better."

"This report debunks the lie spread by U.S. Sugar that field burning is not a source of toxic pollution. No more will they be able to callously hide behind misrepresented regional air quality data to justify poisoning the surrounding Glades communities with the outdated and unnecessary practice of pre-harvest sugar field burning," said Patrick Ferguson, Sierra Club organizing representative, Stop the Burn – Go Green Harvest Campaign.

Read the report.

View the press conference recording.

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