Nikki Fried’s ‘changes’ to cane burning served only Big Sugar

Acrid smoke from burning sugar cane fields still clouded the skies over Glades residents into the heat of June this year, raining toxic soot on their homes, playgrounds and sports fields, keeping children and other vulnerable residents indoors.

For a third year, the pre-harvest burning season had brought no sign to Glades residents of the “major” and “historic changes” to sugar-cane burning that Agriculture Commissioner Nikki Fried announced on Oct. 1, 2019. That day, Fried, who heads the agency with sole authority over agricultural burn permits and who now is campaigning to be the Democratic nominee for governor, called herself committed to “new approaches.”

The announcement Fried made was profoundly misleading on multiple levels, a Palm Beach Post investigation has found.

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Sugar cane fire pollution kills up to three South Floridians yearly, study finds

Two to three people in South Florida die prematurely each year because of exposure to pollution from sugar cane fires, a study released this month has found.

The study, led by Florida State University researchers, compared rates of death all over South Florida from illnesses linked to exposure to fine particle pollution from 2008 to 2018. Researchers examined the presence of pollution sources, which can also include emissions from other industries and vehicles. They isolated instances in which people were exposed to pollution from cane burning.

Data from 20 counties, including Palm Beach, Martin, St. Lucie, Indian River, Collier, Lee, Polk, Hendry, Glades, Manatee and Sarasota were included in the study.

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Sugar cane burn season still blankets Glades with smoke after study showing it kills people

When the pre-harvest sugar cane burning season began on Oct. 3 with fires across 160 acres of Glades land, the Florida Department of Agriculture, which authorizes the blazes, proclaimed the day the start of “Florida Climate Week.”

It was perhaps an unintentionally ironic start of eight months every year that will see more than 8,000 fires across at least 300,000 acres of agricultural land send toxic smoke and ash into the air.

Setting fields of sugar cane on fire to burn off the plants’ unused outer layer and facilitate harvesting has been phased out in other countries on evidence that it not only contributes to climate change but also harms the health of workers and residents. It has been challenged in South Florida where the soot and pollution it produces predominately affect the Palm Beach County’s most impoverished communities where most residents are people of color.

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Pollution from sugar farming burns area residents

One of the world’s biggest sugar companies has been barred from selling in the United States for the past three months.

The U.S. imposed the ban on the Central Romana Corporation around Thanksgiving. News reports showed abusive conditions for its workers in the Dominican Republic, and a Customs and Border Protection investigation found indications the company used forced labor.

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