Ensuring clean water enters the Everglades is a top priority of farmers. Over the past two decades, U.S. Sugar and other farmers in the Everglades Agricultural Area have reduced the amount of phosphorus leaving their farms by an average of 55 percent a year. That far exceeds the 25 percent annual reduction required by law. In 2016, farmers continued to make significant progress in Everglades restoration despite the record rainfall due to El Niño weather patterns. The long-term performance of best management practices shows that farmers are exceeding phosphorus reduction targets year-after-year.
Thanks to advanced soil and water management practices, water flowing off farmland is significantly cleaner than when it enters. Today, more than 90 percent of the Everglades meets water quality standards set by the federal Everglades Forever Act. Once the projects associated with the Everglades Restoration Strategies are completed, they will raise that percentage to 100.
In August 2015, the South Florida Water Management District issued a proclamation recognizing the efforts of the Everglades Agricultural Area farmers over the past 20 years to reduce the amount of nutrients in the water entering the Everglades. U.S. Sugar, through its on- farm best management practices, has been a leader in that achievement.
U.S. Sugar considers the Everglades a treasured state and national asset and works diligently to protect the unique ecosystem. Combined, Florida sugarcane farmers have invested more than $400 million in restoring and preserving the Everglades.
U.S. Sugar has been a key supporter of the 1994 Everglades Forever Act, which was designed to increase the quality and quantity of water entering the Everglades and protect the native plants and animals from invasive species. Among other things, the Act required water runoff from farms to be twice as clean as rain and created the most rigorous environmental rules on farming operations in the United States.
In October 2010, U.S. Sugar sold 26,800 acres of land to the South Florida Water Management District for the River of Grass initiative to help restore the Everglades. That land is being used today for restoration efforts.