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Sugar Farmers ‘At War’ With Senate President Negron

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U.S. Sugar Corp.

Farmers and agricultural businesses south of Lake Okeechobee said Monday that Senate President Joe Negron is at "war" with them in his push for state lawmakers to back a $2.4 billion reservoir project.

The owners of more than 50 farms and businesses in the Everglades Agricultural Area signed onto a letter sent to Negron. The letter questions a memo the Stuart Republican sent to senators Thursday that said the federal government may reprioritize a project list for Everglades restoration if Florida approves its portion of a 60,000-acre reservoir on mostly sugar-industry farmland south of the lake.

"This memorandum is just the latest fusillade in what can only be described as a war on your part against farmers south of Lake Okeechobee, the hard-working men and women we employ and the communities in which they and their families live,” said the letter from the Everglades Agricultural Area farmers.

Among the backers of the letter were sugar-industry giants Florida Crystals and U.S. Sugar Corp.

Negron's proposal (SB 10) is aimed at reducing polluted water releases from the lake into estuaries to the east and west. It would do so by sending water south from the lake.

The farmers in their letter contend the state should consider less-expensive options to solve the lake-discharge problems plaguing coastal estuaries, including underground storage, which they note was first included in the Comprehensive Everglades Restoration Plan.

The letter contended Negron, who sent the memo after a trip to Washington, D.C., "selectively chose facts" in arguing for the reservoir.

"The real significance of your memorandum is not what it says; rather, it is what it does not say," the letter said. "It is obvious that the real takeaway from your recent trip to Washington, D.C., is that as long as current Everglades restoration projects, engineering and feasibility studies, and the ongoing Herbert Hoover Dike repairs are incomplete, the federal government will not, and cannot, commit to sharing the cost with the state of any new projects, including yours."