Steube takes ag’s side in debate over Lake O

MOORE HAVEN — During his address Oct. 10 at the Glades County Economic Development Council annual dinner, U.S. Rep. Greg Steube said he would continue to oppose the views of another congressman on issues involving Lake Okeechobee.

Lake Okeechobee News/Chris Felker
U.S. Rep. Greg Steube (R-17th District) spoke Oct. 10 in Moore Haven.

He outlined his sharp contrast with the views of U.S. Rep. Brian Mast, R-18th District, over the lake levels. Rep. Mast’s coastal district includes Port St. Lucie, Fort Pierce, Stuart and Jupiter, taking in all of St. Lucie and Martin counties and the northeastern part of Palm Beach County.

Their two districts meet atop Lake O, with Rep. Steube representing the populations of North Port, Punta Gorda, Venice and Okeechobee. His 17th Congressional District covers the entire western Central Florida counties of Charlotte, DeSoto, Glades, Hardee, Highlands and Okeechobee, plus parts of Lee, Polk and Sarasota counties.

Mr. Steube, who holds undergraduate and law degrees from the University of Florida, majored in beef cattle sciences and agricultural law. He told the crowd, “I do not agree with two of my fellow congressmen who border my district. I support agriculture; I come from an agricultural background. I don’t believe that agriculture is the problem,” when it comes to Lake Okeechobee’s conditions, he asserted.

He said he believes in taking “a scientific approach to the things that we need to do with the lake. I support ag’s approach to the lake levels. I don’t think draining down the lake to 10 feet is a good idea.”

He noted he’d been visiting other parts of his district earlier in the day, “to talk to a lot of people … who have businesses around Lake Okeechobee to talk about those specific issues.

“I want you to know that I’m very engaged on that. We’re going to try to do everything we can within our purview to talk to the Corps of Engineers — and I’ve had many conversations with them — to try to get them to a more neutral position as it relates to the lake levels.”

Asked about financing for the federal share of the costs for the Comprehensive Everglades Restoration Plan and repairs to the Herbert Hoover Dike, he pointed to the hundreds of millions of dollars in the fiscal 2020 budget to address them.

“I do agree — and I agreed when I was in the state Senate — that more needed to be done north of the lake, not south of the lake, so I would like to focus our resources north of the lake in treating the water coming through the Kissimmee River basin into the lake. I think that would solve a lot of the issues of the nutrient problem in the lake,” he explained.

Rep. Steube applauded recent economic reports that he says prove tax cuts are working, on both the state and federal levels, and producing “record employment and unemployment numbers, record economic numbers.”

He asked those in attendance to help him on one issue that he said will give a huge boost to the U.S. economy.

“One of the things that, unfortunately, the Democratic leadership is holding up right now, which will improve that, is USMCA,” he said, referring to the proposed U.S. Mexico Canada Agreement on trade. “It’s been approved by the Senate, approved by the president, it’s been negotiated, and even Democrats want the USMCA. It’ll help our agriculture sector. I’ve talked to dairy farmers in Okeechobee County who will see a huge boon in the economy if we pass the USMCA.”

He said the bill would hugely help in the big fruit, produce and meat-producing states such as Florida.

“It is sitting on the speaker’s desk. I’ve gone on the floor many times and asked her to bring that up for a vote. I’ve been told that hopefully it’ll be brought up before Thanksgiving, and that’ll be one great thing that we can have accomplished. Unfortunately because it’s so polarizing and political up there, they don’t want to give the president a win.

“So I’m hoping that they will set politics aside and allow for that MCA to be voted on, because I can guarantee that if they bring it up for a vote, it’ll be a bipartisan bill that’ll be passed and you’ll see some great things both locally and nationally that will occur,” Rep. Steube finished.

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