Thursday, October 1, 2020

SMOKE AND MIRRORS FOR THE GLADES: Sugarcane field burn season begins today

For Immediate Release

October 1, 2020

Contacts: Patrick Ferguson,, 954-288-4234

Steve Messam,,  989-400-4225



Sugarcane field burn season begins today  

BELLE GLADE -- Today marks the beginning of yet another sugarcane harvesting season. The Florida Department of Agriculture and Community Services (FDACS) and Commissioner Nikki Fried have let another full year pass without taking action to end the discriminatory burn season rules that protect the more affluent predominantly white communities to the east and send all the smoke and ash toward the predominantly black and brown cities of South Bay, Belle Glade, and Pahokee.

“Toxic smoke and dirty ash will rain down on us in and around the Everglades Agricultural Area for the next 6-8 months. Commissioner Fried has had close to two years to take action to protect the people of the Glades and she has failed. She has failed us,” said South Bay resident Shanique Scott.

“I want to know why my family has to suffer when other families get protection. I want to ask Commissioner Fried. Why? I cannot accept that just because I live in a less densely populated city my children have to bear the brunt of the sugar industry’s toxic, outdated harvest practice. Who created the measuring stick of the value of our lives compared to others?,” stated South Bay resident Kina Phillips.

Patrick Ferguson, Sierra Club Regional Organizing Representative, stated: “Green harvesting, where the fields do not get burned pre-harvest, is not rocket science. Sugarcane growers all over the world, even in Louisiana, are adopting green harvesting and have profited from utilizing sugarcane trash rather than burning it. Why do Florida sugarcane growers refuse to switch?  Because FDACS allows them to maintain the status quo on the backs of the residents in and around the Glades.”

“A year ago today Commissioner Fried announced a new buffer zone between burned fields and wildlands but nothing to protect the Glades. In August she announced changes planned for 2021 related to population density but offered few details. What she hasn’t done is more telling. She has not responded in any substantive manner to community-driven demands for a 27-30 mile protective buffer zone between burning and homes, schools, churches, and businesses. Commissioner Fried also has failed to follow CDC guidelines that call for bans on agricultural burning during the COVID-19 pandemic. This leaves Western Palm Beach County residents, already hit hard by the pandemic, unprotected from pollutants like PM2.5, known to increase the COVID-19 fatality rate,” said Belle Glade resident Pastor Steve Messam.

Belle Glade resident Catherine Martinez said: “As a retired Palm Beach County school teacher and a resident of Belle Glade I am appalled that the Palm Beach County School Board has remained silent on the practice of burning cane fields before harvest. The Board has also shown tacit support by renting the land by Rosenwald Elementary School to the sugar cane companies and allowing them to use this method, which is so detrimental to the health of our residents and the environment. Green harvesting is sustainable agriculture and is becoming standard practice in other states and countries. We should put the health of our children first and lead the way in promoting environmentally friendly agriculture.”

“Sugar field burning in Florida is representative of environmental racism and corporate greed that puts the reckless pursuit of short-term profits at the expense of the health of Florida residents, local economies, and the environment. On this first day of the harvesting season, we are reminded that Commissioner Fried and the Palm Beach County School District are complicit in the sugar industry’s annual poisoning of Glades residents,” stated Belle Glade resident Robert Mitchell.

New website:

Background: (10/2019)

     MUCK CITY AFLAME: Stop the Burn protest highlights failure of FDACS to protect community (11/2019)


     Everglades Coalition Sign-on Letter (4/2020)


     GLADES ACTIVISTS TO COMMISSIONER FRIED: Walk the talk! Repair the injustice of yesterday and today (6/2020)

     PRESS RELEASE: Commissioner Fried: Stop Sacrificing Black Lives to Appease Big Sugar (7/2020) (8/2020)  

     Florida’s sugar harvest sends fields up in smoke. Some residents are literally sick of it: (9/2020)