Florida lawmakers are considering a job-killing proposal to buy up and flood thousands of acres of south Florida farmland. Senate Bill 10 would result in yet another sugarcane mill closure and devastation to the local neighborhoods where IAM members live and work.
The communities around Lake Okeechobee have already been hit hard by closures and job losses, and this new politically charged push has IAM Local 2152 member William Bland especially concerned.
“I have been able to put my daughter through school by way of the sugar industry,” said Bland. “I have a granddaughter who is school right now. I’m helping raise her. Without this income, I don’t know if I can be able to do it.”
The plan proposed by Florida Senate President Joe Negron has residents, workers and their union leaders, like IAM District 166 Business Representative Robert Miller, questioning its justification when other viable options exist.
“To date, 120,000 acres of farmland south of the lake have been taken out of production and dedicated to restoration,” Miller wrote in a Palm Beach Post op-ed. “Yet, we were surprised and angered to learn that the state isn’t even using all this land yet. Why buy more when there’s plenty of state-owned land to put to use?”
“The sugar industry is the only way of life here,” said Bland. “It impacts me directly, I might not have a job and I might not have a way to provide for my family.”