Hey, we farmers are working here!

Guest Commentary
By Amy Ridgdill

MOORE HAVEN — I get it, the people running the Sierra Club and Everglades Trust don’t like farmers. Attacking farming families like mine are who they are and what they do. Using half-truths and scare tactics to try and shame hard-working people is straight out of their playbook.

Everybody gets it. Shutting down farming has been their agenda all along. But they have stepped way over the line in trying to use the coronavirus pandemic to try to scare vulnerable communities and ailing neighbors into believing farming is bad for America. In fact, if their efforts are successful, we will depend more on foreign food and less on locally grown food, cultivated by American farmers.

In recent days, these elitist anti-farmer groups have strategically stepped up their attacks from behind their computers to try to shut down farming in our state. They shamelessly have taken to scaring children, the elderly and the ailing with attacks on safe, pre-harvest burns — those flash fires sugarcane farmers use to burn leaves off the stalk prior to harvest.

Here are the facts:
That burn you see lasts 15 minutes. It is safe, necessary, heavily regulated and supporting thousands of jobs in our area.

Based on the public health data and independent air quality reports, safe, controlled pre-harvest sugarcane burning does not affect the air quality in the Glades communities. The Glades communities enjoy some of the best air quality in the State of Florida, with Palm Beach and Hendry counties ranking among the top of all of Florida’s 67 counties. (Source: Robert Wood Johnson Foundation County Health Rankings and Roadmaps, 2019).

Hendry and Palm Beach County public health data show there is no uptick in emergency room visits for respiratory complications during the sugarcane harvest season. Ash from burnt sugarcane is not a health risk. The ash you see is large enough and heavy enough to fall to the ground. Particles of this size are not considered a health hazard.

Our faith in God and country and each other will get us through this. Despite these radical voices and their tactics, farmers will keep our communities safe, our families fed and our people employed during this crisis. We are a tough, resilient lot. But when this is all over, remember these anti-farming voices — who they are and what they tried to do when we were all at our most uneasy and most vulnerable.

Times are tough. We are trying our best to support and protect our families and yours. Have some decency. Show some respect. We’re working here.

Amy Ridgdill is a fifth-generation farmer with Perry Farms in Moore Haven.

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