Sugar Field Burning

sugar field burningStop the Burn!

Pre-harvest sugar field burning is a toxic and outdated harvesting practice that takes place every year from October through May over the approximately 400,000 acres of sugarcane fields in and around the Everglades Agricultural Area (EAA). Farmers burn sugarcane crops before harvest to remove the leaves and tops of the sugarcane plant leaving only the sugar-bearing stalk to be harvested. This unnecessary harvesting practice negatively impacts the health, quality of life, and economic opportunity of residents living in and around the EAA.

stop the burn logoDiscriminatory burn regulations based on wind direction ensure more affluent communities to the east are spared when the wind blows their way, while residents in and around the Glades (predominantly lower-income communities of color) remain unprotected from the smoke and ash — when the wind blows toward them, burning permits are granted. The discriminatory burning regulations are under the authority of Florida Agricultural Commissioner Wilton Simpson, who oversees the Florida Forest Service, the agency that hands out pre-harvest burn permits.

The Stop the Burn Campaign is a grassroots environmental justice campaign to replace pre-harvest sugar field burning with modern, sustainable, burn-free green harvesting. Green harvesting is practiced by major sugarcane producers around the world, including growers in Louisiana. (Read about Sierra Club Florida's trip to Brazil to tour the Native Green Cane Project.) Florida growers even green harvest, but only when it is convenient for them. Where green harvesting has been embraced large-scale, the sugarcane leaves and tops, instead of going up in smoke, are utilized to create additional sources of income or savings for the growers and more sugar-related jobs. In addition, stopping the burn also means less climate impacts, less water pollution, and more soil regeneration — all critically important for the restoration of the Everglades. Green harvesting is a win-win-win situation.

For more information, visit or contact Patrick Ferguson.