Rick Roth, Florida Cane Farmer
“We live in the Glades, and my family drinks this water.” According to Florida sugarcane farmer Rick Roth, that’s one reason he and other cane farmers agreed to tax themselves for Everglades restoration.
Florida farmers imposed a voluntary tax on themselves in 1994 to supplement the state’s $685 million Everglades cleanup plan. Each year, Rick pays $25 an acre to help clean the water coming from his farm.
But Rick does a lot more than just open up his wallet come tax season. His farming practices are environmentally friendly, too.
Through a series of pumps on his farm, Rick moves water from wet areas to drier fields. This way, he’s not draining saturated cane fields and can reduce phosphorous runoff. And because cane requires only small amounts of fertilizer and can grow without insecticides or fungicides, it’s one of the most environmentally friendly crops in the world.
All told, Florida farmers have invested tens of millions of dollars in best management practices to improve on-farm techniques. They have spent more than $300 million to clean the water that leaves their land.
The hard work and investment is really paying off. Phosphorous levels in the water are well below state environmental requirements. Farm water is now the cleanest source of water entering the Everglades. Wading birds, Florida panthers, and crocodiles returned to gladly call the Everglades home.
“Environmental quality has really improved since my father first moved to Belle Glade in 1949 with nothing but a pickup truck, a vegetable planter, and his dog,” Rick said. “It makes me proud to think how clean things will be when my son, Ryan, takes over the farm.”