In a recent editorial, “When the system works, the Everglades and the people win” on June 9, the Captains for Clean Water organization claimed that Gov. Ron DeSantis’ recent veto of SB 2508 was the “will of the people” to prioritize tourism and environmental interests over agriculture. But their call to action that received so much “support” was a campaign of misinformation.
For Floridians, tourism, environment and agriculture are deeply entwined and are dependent on one another. Florida’s agriculture industry plays an important role in protecting and restoring the environment, while producing the food Florida families — and tourists — need to survive. Florida farms preserve the natural landscape by protecting lands from commercial and residential development. The nearly 10 million acres in Florida that are dedicated to farming are not just naturally beautiful, but also contribute to clean air, clean water and a vast wildlife habitat.
What’s more, farmers take a proactive approach to protecting and restoring Florida’s environment. Through best management practices, technologies and innovations, farmers are mitigating the impact on the environment by conserving resources and limiting nutrient use. Every year, more than 120 million tourists come to the Sunshine State, and many come to experience our natural beauty. Without agriculture, the environment and the tourism industry would suffer greatly.
Not only does agriculture play a significant role in protecting the environment, but this industry of farmers, growers and ranchers also provides wholesome foods for families who live here and families who visit here. Thanks to agriculture, Florida has a strong, domestic supply of food. We grow more than 300 different commodities. During the winter months, Florida is the nation’s salad bowl. Over 179 million Americans east of the Mississippi River depend on fresh vegetables that are grown in South Florida.
Florida families and tourists alike enjoy all the fresh and wholesome foods that the Sunshine State has to offer. If farmers were driven out, Florida and the nation would be forced to rely on foreign countries for our food. With the present-day global unrest, supply chain shortages, and the rising costs of gas, fertilizer and inflation, Florida cannot count on others for its food supply. A strong and safe domestic supply of food is essential.
It is absurdly misleading to claim that the environment and tourism are priorities over agriculture. Neither would be strong without the support of Florida farmers. Rather than sacrificing important industries for a selfish mission, all must work together toward our common objectives. And that is doing what’s right for Florida.
Gene Adams is chairman of the Florida Ag Coalition, which represents farmers, growers and ranchers in Florida.
Read Gene Adam's opinion column in the South Florida Sun-Sentinel here.