May 12, 2022 By Blair Wickstrom

Barren flats, over a thousand dead manatees due to starvation, unchecked pollution into our local

watersheds, it’s time to address the “why” in the room. Or the “how”. Why and how do we let

this continue to happen?

With Florida’s largest industry, by far, being tourism, you’d think our elected leaders would

protect this potentially never-ending cash cow with their political lives. And with fishing,

mostly inshore fishing, being the single largest recreational activity in the state, fueling a $10

billion-dollar economic superpower, you’d think anglers would sway more influence in the

state’s political landscape.

But, we’re not a super PAC, not even a PAC. We the angler have the numbers, but not the

industry support walking the halls of our state Capitol, or Nation’s Capitol. The words, “you’re

not here” still ring in my ears. State Senator Linda Stewart told me that when I was visiting her

in her Tallahassee office two years ago. “You’re Not Here.”

Well, like most of you I have a job that keeps me from making the nearly six-hour drive to the

state capital. So, if we can’t have industry lobbyists, fighting for fishable water for us, and we

can’t get dozens of anglers pleading with lawmakers each day of the session. Then maybe we

have to try and level the field by tipping it the other way.

We need to drain Sugar’s influence instead of trying to match it.

Sugar has rigged the system and we need to unwind their influence.

In 2020 alone, Florida’s sugar industry — the home of Big Sugar — put at least $11 million into

congressional campaign coffers. This happened on both sides of the aisle, in every corner of

America. While Big Sugar may ask for nothing in return from members of Congress today,

they’re making a down payment on a future request to preserve price supports and import quotas

in the farm bill. That future request will go something like, “Do us this one favor. We’re asking

for just one vote, every five years. No skin off your back. No one gets hurt.”

But our fishable inshore waters lose. Big Sugar’s impacts on how we manage our state’s water

are immeasurable. And it’s gone on for more than five decades. It has to stop. And it’s not just

anglers, people are being hurt. Through import controls, negotiated in the farm bill, Big Sugar

forces Americans to pay as high as 100 percent above the average global sugar price.

On top of that, Americans are on the hook for a subsidy of $2.4 to $4 billion per year, all to send

profits mostly to a few wealthy sugar producers.

The average sugar subsidy payout per year is more than $700,000 per grower, and the Big Sugar

conglomerates suck up most of these benefits by representing multiple growers. This is

corporate welfare to the tune 0f $150 million dollars a year to the Fanjul family according to one

calculation.

Fishing guides, tackle stores and the tackle industry as a whole suffer when thousands of acres of

seagrass disappear. How can this continue to happen?

I asked that very question to State Senator Linda Stewart, who told me, “You’re not here.”

Well, we need to tilt the field. We need to end Big Sugar’s unchecked influence.

If we can’t match their fire power we need to take out their bombs. We have to end the 24-hour

a day lobbying efforts of our elected leaders. We have to cut off their government-supported

purse strings.

We have to have our lawmakers voting for what’s best for Floridians, anglers, us. Not special

interests.

We have one Congressman who is ready to fight, Representative Brian Mast, Ft. Pierce, “The

sugar industry does not have the right to demand Florida’s environment kneel to their wishes,”

Mast said in a statement. “As a representative of the Treasure Coast and the Palm Beaches, I will

not let them make backroom deals that poison our waterways or starve Florida’s Everglades.”

We need other elected leaders to join Mast. They can start with taking the “No Big Sugar

Money Pledge.”

The No Big Sugar Money pledge is a commitment from those seeking political office to keep

their campaigns free of toxic sugar money. Any federal, state, or local candidate can take the

pledge. All signers must commit to avoiding taking contributions, either directly or indirectly,

from sugar companies or their executives.

Let’s level the field by tipping the corrupt Sugar Barons into the muck.

Read more about the No Sugar pledge here, www.nobigsugar.com and sign the pledge.at: