As farmers and members of the community we thrive only when the water, air, and land are kept healthy and clean. Learn the facts about our agricultural practices, including controlled pre-harvest sugarcane burns, which help us protect the land we love.
The Glades communities aren’t just home to U.S. Sugar’s headquarters, it’s where many of our employees have decided to live, work, and raise their children and grandchildren. As farmers in the community, which includes many family-owned farms, our first responsibility is to the health and safety of our neighbors, families and loved ones. We make it a priority to ensure that we maintain clean water and air, while providing good jobs and support to the wider community.
The health and safety of our employees and community are core to U.S. Sugar’s company values. We proudly support Florida’s efforts to maintain its ambient air quality.
• Air quality in Glades communities is among the best for all of Florida. According to the Florida Department of Health’s latest “Burden of Asthma” study, asthma rates are also lower in this area compared to Florida’s statewide average.
• COVID-19 and the respiratory conditions COVID-19 causes are serious, and deserve sound, peer-reviewed science to understand how air quality affects health during this pandemic. U.S Sugar relies on analyses from epidemiologists and scientists, and we remain committed to helping our communities and the entire state of Florida enjoy the highest ambient air quality.
• During the COVID-19 pandemic, U.S. Sugar employees did their part to step up for Americans when needed the most; in addition to supplying essential items throughout Florida and the country, U.S. Sugar also partnered with community leaders to donate hand sanitizer, medical masks, food and other supplies.
• U.S. Sugar also applies strict safety protocols to protect our employees so we can continue to feed American and support our neighbors during this pandemic
Advocates of purported alternatives to pre-harvest sugarcane burning ignore the fact that our agricultural practices are subject to strict regulations and based on time-tested, continually improved techniques which benefit Florida’s ecosystem and reduce wildfires.
• So-called “green harvesting” is not a viable alternative for Florida’s farmers to pursue on a large scale.
• Many areas which have instituted green-harvesting must then rely more heavily on pesticides and herbicides.
• Sugarcane harvesting through controlled, pre-harvest burns does not create thick smoke in the breathing zone. Daily permits are only issued when the weather conditions are present that will ensure smoke rises far off the ground and dissipates quickly. Fields are burned in small areas, often about 40 acres at a time, with fires lasting 15 to 20 minutes.
• “Black snow” is not an accurate representation of air quality in our community during the harvesting process.
Successful farming operations rely on good soil, clean air and water, and healthy land. Our farming practices are based on a commitment to environmental stewardship.
• In 2020, Florida became the first highly populous state to meet all national ambient air quality standards. Air monitoring analysis confirms those findings and shows the Glades farming community has some of the cleanest air quality in the state. Keeping Florida’s air clean requires a partnership between industry, the Florida Department of Environmental Protection, and the EPA.
• We continually improve agricultural practices to use the most up-to-date technology and techniques. Our GPS-enabled harvesters as well as our private rail system to transport harvested cane reduce emissions as well as Florida road traffic.
The safety and health of our community is our primary concern. U.S. Sugar supported the Florida Department of Agriculture’s decision to create stricter permitting measures in 2019.
• All local areas where sugarcane harvesting occurs are subject to the same strict, daily permitting criteria. Some areas are considered sensitive based on hard data and criteria such as proximity to schools and hospitals.
• Stricter guidelines for permitting include larger buffers between wild-lands and sugarcane burns as well as taking Air Quality Index data into account.
• Contrary to what activists try to say, socioeconomic status is not—and has never been—a factor to determine sensitive areas.