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Florida's sugar industry is at the center of a new class-action lawsuit.
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Residents of Belle Glade, Pahokee, South Bay, and surrounding communities are part of a federal lawsuit against U.S. Sugar Corporation, Florida Crystals Corporation, and nine other defendants.
The lawsuit claims residents have been negatively impacted by sugarcane burns. The suit calls for an end to those burns, along with the recovery of economic damages and health monitoring for residents, especially the poor and elderly.
The Berman Law Group, which filed the lawsuit, released this statement:
"Florida’s sugar industry burns approximately nine million tons of sugarcane foliage annually, much of which contains pesticides, herbicides, insecticides, and other agricultural chemicals. Toxic chemicals emitted include volatile organic compounds, sulfur oxides, and nitrogen oxides. Children and the elderly are especially vulnerable to these toxic chemicals."
U.S. Sugar Corporation released this statement to WPTV about the lawsuit:
"The complaint filed earlier today by some Boca Raton trial attorneys is currently under review. We are American farmers and stand behind the safety and integrity of our farming practices, which are highly regulated and legally permitted on a daily basis by the government. Our farming practices are safe, environmentally sound, highly regulated and closely monitored. Beyond that, we live in these Glades communities and raise our families here – our children and grandchildren – in the neighborhoods, schools and churches throughout these small, close-knit farming towns. Fortunately, decades of independent air quality monitoring and data show that our communities, along with our counties of Palm Beach, Hendry and Glades, have some of the best air quality in the entire state, better than the state average, year after year. Lastly, while seeming to be done on behalf of our communities, this lawsuit actually attacks the very farming that supports all the jobs in our communities. The health, safety and jobs of our communities all are vitally important to U.S. Sugar."