FL Ag Commissioner Nikki Fried: Make Your 2022 'Stop the Burn–Go Green' New Year's Resolution
BELLE GLADE, FL — Today, the Stop the Burn–Go Green Harvest Campaign leadership sent a letter to Florida Commissioner of Agriculture Nikki Fried, urging her to make a "Stop the Burn" New Year’s Resolution:
January 4, 2022
New Year's Day marked the beginning of your last year as Florida's Commissioner of Agriculture. How will you make your mark in 2022? We, the Stop The Burn–Go Green Campaign leadership team, were hopeful that your election in 2018 would bring an end to the environmental injustice imposed on our communities by toxic pre-harvest sugar field burning. Our hopes were dashed in 2019, and again in 2020, but the fact that you still have complete authority to "stop the burn" leads us to remind you that a new year brings new opportunities to correct past wrongs and to chart a new course forward. As a 2022 New Year's Resolution, we trust that you will, during this last year of your term, commit yourself to finally using your power to institute the protective 27-mile sugarcane field burn-free buffer zone we have been asking you to implement, as a first phase of the eventual end to pre-harvest burning, since 2019. This is your opportunity to prove to Floridians that you have what it takes to stand up to special interests and to truly prioritize the health, safety, and welfare of Floridians, especially those disenfranchised in the past, as you have indicated in countless press releases since you took office.
You have proven yourself capable of bold leadership when it comes to the phase-out of Polystyrene foam packaging products in Florida. Isn't it ironic that your cited motivations to begin phasing out Polystyrene products in Florida include "hidden health dangers," environmental concerns, and economic opportunities associated with using Florida-grown crops as sustainable alternatives to Polystyrene products?
You are well aware of the growing body of data pointing to the known health dangers of exposure to the toxic air pollution produced by pre-harvest sugar field burning for eight months out of the year under your watch. You know that a recent analysis of 10 years of data collected by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, by Stanford University's Environmental Change and Human Outcomes shows that our Glades communities are exposed to the worst smoke days in the nation, worse even than Californian communities who have suffered from pollution exposure produced by record wildfires in recent years. During your watch, ProPublica/Palm Beach Post investigative reporting has documented a 35% spike in respiratory hospital admissions in Belle Glade alone during the harvesting season. All this while your agency has documented that the total amount of burnt acreage from October through November of this year, not only within but around the Everglades Agricultural Area (Glades, Hendry, Martin, and Palm Beach counties), is significantly more than the amount of burnt acreage approved under your watch in by this time last year already.
We urge you to make your Stop the Burn New Year's Resolution today, Commissioner Fried. Expand much-needed economic opportunities in the Glades through the utilization of sugarcane leaves and tops into biofuels and bioproducts instead of continuing to permit the industry to burn and waste those valuable resources while poisoning our communities. A perfect example of the benefits of green harvesting was highlighted in the video provided within the recent ProPublica/Palm Beach Post article titled "Burning Sugar Cane Pollutes Communities of Color in Florida. Brazil Shows There's Another Way."
If you fail to make and honor a Stop the Burn New Year's resolution, it will be made perfectly clear that you simply do not care about the health and welfare of our communities, you lack either the courage or will to put human life over the greed and avarice of Big Sugar, or you are simply a hypocrite who lacks the principle and integrity to back your words up with concrete actions.
Despite our justifiably harsh words, we will continue to hold out hope that you will stand true to your stated principles of prioritizing the health and safety and welfare of ALL Floridians. Our campaign will be the first to call you a true hero and champion for environmental justice if you act boldly to phase out toxic sugarcane burning, beginning with the establishment of the 27-mile protective burn-free buffer zone. We implore you to make public your Stop the Burn New Year's Resolution when you speak at the Everglades Coalition Conference this coming Friday. The Everglades Coalition, as one of many organizations calling for an end to pre-harvest burning, will be an excellent setting for your announcement.
Happy New Year from the Stop The Burn–Go Green Campaign Leadership Team,