The Florida Forest Service has pioneered conservation through controlled, prescribed fires, explaining that “prescribed burns are an effective tool to reduce fuel buildups, which can cause dangerous wildfire conditions.” These prescribed fires reduce dry brush and help preserve Florida’s valuable ecosystems.
The safety of our community and employees is a primary concern for U.S. Sugar, and we use controlled, pre-harvest burns to reduce wildfires and create a more efficient harvesting process, which helps to reduce traffic congestion on Florida roads and vehicle emissions during the harvesting season.
This process is strictly regulated and well-controlled through the Florida Forest Service. During harvest season, sugarcane fields are burned in contained, small areas—40 acres at a time—with fires lasting 15 to 20 minutes on average. We receive permits on a daily basis to ensure that a comprehensive review of weather conditions and surrounding area (or proximity to sensitive areas) has taken place.
Science and technology are important parts of farming. We rely on agricultural practices that are time-tested, continually improved, and supported by the best research and technology available. Our techniques not only follow state regulations, they often exceed them to fully ensure the safety of our community.
We have improved and honed these techniques over decades through farmers’ local knowledge and expertise as well as leading research from institutions like the University of Florida’s Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences (IFAS).
We practice precision agriculture, which means that we continually gather data through tools like GPS and the largest closed WiFi network in the world. This precision enables us to make decisions that put safety first and keep our agricultural practices efficient and sustainable.
Florida’s prescribed burn program is a national model for successfully managing state forests and natural lands through carefully coordinated, safe, and permitted prescribed burns. The Florida Forest Service issues permits for many different kinds of prescribed burns—not just burns related to the pre-harvest of sugarcane. Prescribed burns help prevent large wildfires, improve wildlife habitat, and help preserve endangered plant and animal species.
For sugarcane farmers, controlled preharvest burning techniques are essential for a successful harvest season. Due to our unique soil and environmental conditions, controlled preharvest sugarcane burning improves soil conditions while reducing the occurrence of wildfires and decreasing the presence of rodents, insects, and other pests.
Permits are issued individually each day and rely on a precise monitoring of weather and wind to ensure that burning occurs in the safest conditions possible. Precisely monitored and issued permits as well as low-emission transport of the harvested sugarcane crop through U.S. sugar’s private rail system support the Glades communities’ enjoyment of some of the best air quality in the state of Florida.