May 12, 2022
Barren flats, over a thousand dead manatees due to starvation, unchecked pollution into our local watersheds, it’s time to address the “why” in the room. Or the “how”. Why and how do we let this continue to happen?
With Florida’s largest industry, by far, being tourism, you’d think our elected leaders would protect this potentially never-ending cash cow with their political lives. And with fishing, mostly inshore fishing, being the single largest recreational activity in the state, fueling a $10 billion-dollar economic superpower, you’d think anglers would sway more influence in the state’s political landscape.
But, we’re not a super PAC, not even a PAC. We the angler have the numbers, but not the industry support walking the halls of our state Capitol, or Nation’s Capitol. The words, “you’re not here” still ring in my ears. State Senator Linda Stewart told me that when I was visiting her in her Tallahassee office two years ago. “You're Not Here.”
Well, like most of you I have a job that keeps me from making the nearly six-hour drive to the state capital. So, if we can’t have industry lobbyists, fighting for fishable water for us, and we can’t get dozens of anglers pleading with lawmakers each day of the session. Then maybe we have to try and level the field by tipping it the other way.
We need to drain Sugar’s influence instead of trying to match it.
Sugar has rigged the system and we need to unwind their influence.
In 2020 alone, Florida’s sugar industry — the home of Big Sugar — put at least $11 million into congressional campaign coffers. This happened on both sides of the aisle, in every corner of America. While Big Sugar may ask for nothing in return from members of Congress today, they’re making a down payment on a future request to preserve price supports and import quotas in the farm bill. That future request will go something like, “Do us this one favor. We’re asking for just one vote, every five years. No skin off your back. No one gets hurt.”
But our fishable inshore waters lose. Big Sugar’s impacts on how we manage our state’s water are immeasurable. And it’s gone on for more than five decades. It has to stop. And it’s not just anglers, people are being hurt. Through import controls, negotiated in the farm bill, Big Sugar forces Americans to pay as high as 100 percent above the average global sugar price.
On top of that, Americans are on the hook for a subsidy of $2.4 to $4 billion per year, all to send profits mostly to a few wealthy sugar producers.
The average sugar subsidy payout per year is more than $700,000 per grower, and the Big Sugar conglomerates suck up most of these benefits by representing multiple growers. This is corporate welfare to the tune 0f $150 million dollars a year to the Fanjul family according to one calculation.
Fishing guides, tackle stores and the tackle industry as a whole suffer when thousands of acres of seagrass disappear. How can this continue to happen?
I asked that very question to State Senator Linda Stewart, who told me, “You’re not here.”
Well, we need to tilt the field. We need to end Big Sugar’s unchecked influence.
If we can’t match their fire power we need to take out their bombs. We have to end the 24-hour a day lobbying efforts of our elected leaders. We have to cut off their government-supported purse strings.
We have to have our lawmakers voting for what’s best for Floridians, anglers, us. Not special interests.
We have one Congressman who is ready to fight, Representative Brian Mast, Ft. Pierce, “The sugar industry does not have the right to demand Florida’s environment kneel to their wishes,” Mast said in a statement. “As a representative of the Treasure Coast and the Palm Beaches, I will not let them make backroom deals that poison our waterways or starve Florida’s Everglades.”
We need other elected leaders to join Mast. They can start with taking the “No Big Sugar Money Pledge.”
The No Big Sugar Money pledge is a commitment from those seeking political office to keep their campaigns free of toxic sugar money. Any federal, state, or local candidate can take the pledge. All signers must commit to avoiding taking contributions, either directly or indirectly, from sugar companies or their executives.
Let’s level the field by tipping the corrupt Sugar Barrons into the muck.
Read more about the No Sugar pledge here, www.nobigsugar.com and sign the pledge.
Read more at: https://www.miamiherald.com/news/politics-government/state-politics/article261342022.html