Lease of FL Lands to Farming Plantations Called a "Sweetheart Deal"
TALLAHASSEE, Fla. – A lawsuit filed Thursday against Governor Rick Scott and his Cabinet charges them with granting illegal farming leases to sugar and vegetable plantations north of the Everglades.
The environmental group Earthjustice says under state rules the lease of state lands is limited to no more than six years. In late January, farmers were offered a 30-year lease.
Earthjustice attorney David Guest says the plantations involved create pollution and crowd out native vegetation important for wildlife in the Everglades.
"Every other lease of state lands for agriculture in Florida is six years,” Guest says. “This is a sweetheart deal for big sugar and the Everglades is the big loser."
The state owns 14,000 acres of land traditionally used for farming. Under the Everglades Forever Act, farmers who lost their land under the Act were granted a one time only 20-year lease that would have ended next year.
Guest says extending the leases for the sugar and vegetable plantations is illegal and poses a further pollution risk.
"If the governor and Cabinet want to protect and restore the Everglades, they cannot perpetuate the use of state lands to pollute that resource," Guest says.
Guest adds the correct use of the state-owned lands would have been to use them to help restore the health of the Everglades and prevent further pollution.