Ethical Transitioning

The burning of Sugar Cane is Unsafe, Discriminatory, and Extremely Harmful to the Environment.

No More Poison in the Air

The burning of sugarcane fields leads to releases of carbon into the atmosphere alongside methane.

Sugarcane Burning

What We Can Do:

  • Designate "Burn Pits" as Nuisance

  • Incentivize Transition To Profit Increasing Practices

  • Protect Poor and Minority Communities

Sugarcane fields are often burned before harvest in order to remove excess leaves from the plant in order to make the harvesting process more convenient. Sugarcane leaves also reduce yields in subsequent years if they remain in fields. This burning however can lead to toxic emissions that can affect the health of employees and residents who live in proximity to burning sugarcane. The Commissioner has the power to introduce more efficient practices and put an end to the negligence of sugar burning.

The burning of sugarcane fields leads to releases of carbon into the atmosphere alongside methane. These greenhouse gasses contribute to climate change and release particulate matter into the air which when inhaled by humans leads to increased chances of cancer, chronic respiratory illness, and more. These toxic chemicals released include formaldehyde, a known carcinogen.[1] Older Floridians are at risk of severe health problems due to poor air quality resulting from sugarcane burning emissions.

 

[1] https://earthjustice.org/cases/2015/curbing-pollution-from-burning-sugar-cane-fields-in-florida#:~:text=Sugar%20cane%20burning%20in%20Glades,to%20genetic%20mutations%20and%20cancer.

Minority Communities are Disproportionately at Risk

Residents of poor and minority communities are often disproportionately affected by sugarcane burning. Regulations regarding wind direction have lessened the effects on the affluent white areas of the county while black and brown areas have not been afforded the same luxury. Journalism projects like “Black Snow” have brought national attention to the problem.[1]

 

[1] https://projects.propublica.org/black-snow/.

Education

So, What Can We Do?!

It is the duty of the Commissioner of Agriculture to promote the best agricultural practices to Floridian farmers. Encouraging production methods that implement green mulching and biochar techniques will lead to better air quality, less greenhouse gas emissions, and an uninterrupted supply chain that allows all Floridians to benefit. For example, in other sugar-dependent economies, farmers collect the sugarcane leaves for mulch, leading to richer soil and alternative uses for the leaves that would usually be burned.[1] Another alternative practice sugarcane farmers must convert to is the practice of biochar production from sugarcane leaves.[2] By encouraging these greener methods of production, profits will go unharmed along with Florida’s environment.

 

The Department of Agriculture has the power to designate sugarcane field burning as a form of negligence and cause for removal of open burn permits under Florida Administrative Code 5I-2.006. This designation would put an immediate end to sugarcane burning, practically outlawing it. The Commissioner can ensure that it will be strictly enforced by the Florida Forest Service.

 

[1]https://www.nativealimentos.com.br/en/our_world/green-cane-project.

[2] https://www.nature.com/articles/s41598-020-76470-y.