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Environmentalists Target Sugar Field Burning With Legal Action


Environmentalists are taking legal action aimed at stopping Florida sugar growers from burning their fields before harvesting.

They say the practice emits harmful pollutants into the air.

The environmental law organization Earthjustice submitted the petition on behalf of the Sierra Club.

It asks the Environmental Protection Agency to veto a permit issued by the Florida Department of Environmental Protection allowing the burning.

Florida’s sugar industry is concentrated south of Lake Okeechobee, where it is common to see smoke curling in the horizon.

Sugar growers burn their fields to clear excess leaves before harvesting. The environmentalists say the smoke is hazardous.

A statement from U.S. Sugar describes the petition as "without merit" and says the practice is well-monitored.

Harvest season began in October and continues until March.


Amy Green covered the environment for WMFE until 2023. Her work included the 2020 podcast DRAINED.